Anton Forsberg

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The Buzzer: Blackhawks may have hit rock bottom

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It can only getter better from here, right?

The Chicago Blackhawks entered play on Monday night having lost five games in a row and 10 of their past 13 to fall 10 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Things did not get much better in Arizona where they were blown out, 6-1, by a Coyotes team that had won just 13 of its first 55 games. The Blackhawks’ losing streak now sits at six games (with losses in 11 of their past 14 games) as they failed to gain any ground on any of the teams ahead of them in the standings.

They remain 10 points out of a playoff spot with still four teams ahead of them.

Not great.

It was another ugly night for the goaltending situation as starter Anton Forsberg had to be benched after giving up three goals on 13 shots, including a really ugly goal from a terrible angle by Tobias Reider to make it 3-1.

That performance came after Jeff Glass allowed three goals on 19 shots in their previous loss to the Minnesota Wild over the weekend. Glass did not do much better in relief of Forsberg on Monday by giving up three goals on the nine shots he faced.

Corey Crawford‘s absence has obviously been a huge issue for the Blackhawks. The defense is not very good and Forsberg and Glass could never be expected to adequately replace one of the best goalies in the league, and arguably Chicago’s most important player at this point. But even if Crawford returns to the lineup there just does not seem to be much chance for the team to make up all of this ground. For as much as of an upgrade as Crawford would be in net, the team in front of the goaltenders is still shaky defensively and has not exactly been an offensive powerhouse lately.

Lot of problems in Chicago right now.

Player(s) Of The Night: William Nylander and Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs have some flaws but holy cow are they a fun team to watch.

They played a wildly entertaining game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night that saw their young superstars dominate early, then let a 3-0 lead slip away, then get a game-winning goal from James van Riemsdyk to help them improve to 9-2-0 in their past 11 games.

Nylander and Matthews were the big stars of the night for the Maple Leafs.

Nylander scored a pair of goals while Matthews added three assists in the win.

How far can the Maple Leafs go playing this style of hockey with that defense? That is up for a lot of debate, but with that group of forwards and Frederik Andersen playing the way he is (and he was very good once again on Monday night, even while giving up three goals) they will have a chance against anybody.

Player Of The Night Part 2: Vincent Trocheck, Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers offense came through in a big way on Monday night with seven goals, with five of those goals coming from Vincent Trocheck and Evgeny Dadonov.

Trocheck was the big star by recording a hat trick in the win.

Highlight Of The Night

Aaron Ekblad opens the scoring for the Florida Panthers in their win over the Edmonton Oilers with a bank shot from an impossible angle.

Factoid Of The Night

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have combined to score 12 goals for the Edmonton Oilers over the past six games.

The Edmonton Oilers record in those six games: 1-4-1.

If a team has two players combine for that many goals over that many games it seems almost statistically impossible to only get one win out of that stretch.

Scores

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Tampa Bay Lightning 3

Arizona Coyotes 6, Chicago Blackhawks 1

Florida Panthers 7, Edmonton Oilers 5

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Closer to a return? Crawford to join Blackhawks on road trip

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Corey Crawford has not appeared in a game for the Chicago Blackhawks since Dec. 23 and his absence has been a big part of the team’s struggles in the standings.

After some brief concern that his season could already be over, it seems that he is on the verge of returning to the lineup. Even though he did not travel with the team to Minnesota for their game on Saturday night against the Wild, the team announced that he will join the team in Arizona during its current three-game road trip.

Coach Joel Quenneville said he does not expect Crawford to actually play on the trip, but the fact he is joining the team and traveling with them is a pretty good sign that his return to the lineup could be imminent.

In Crawford’s absence the Blackhawks have had to rely on Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass. They have not done a terrible job, but there is a pretty significant gap between what they can provide and what a healthy Crawford provides.

When healthy Crawford has been one of the best goalies in the league and was having a tremendous season with a .928 save percentage in 28 games.

With Crawford in the lineup the Blackhawks are 16-9-2.

Without him they are only 8-13-6.

Getting Crawford back would be a huge boost for the stretch run, but it might still be a little too late to salvage the season. Entering play on Saturday the Blackhawks find themselves eight points out of a playoff spot with four teams ahead of them.

Crawford would have to play lights out down the stretch to even give them a fighting chance to overcome that deficit.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Forsberg’s 42 saves lift Blackhawks to huge win

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A loss on Tuesday night probably would have been a devastating blow to the Chicago Blackhawks’ already slim playoff chances.

But thanks to a stellar 42-save effort from backup goalie Anton Forsberg they were able to escape Nashville with a 2-1 win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The win helps them keep pace with the Minnesota Wild in the quest for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, and keeps them within four point of that spot with still four teams ahead of them.

Still a big mountain, but Tuesday was a much-needed step in the process.

It was a night for the Blackhawks’ depth as David Kampf and Vinnie Hinostraza provided the offense, while Forsberg came through on a night where he was heavily tested.

With starting goalie Corey Crawford still sidelined and no date for his potential return in sight, the Blackhawks are going to probably need this level of goaltending — or close to it — the rest of the way to have a chance to get back into the playoffs as the defense continues to bleed shots against.

But right now if you’re the Blackhawks style points don’t really matter, nor does it matter who provides the offense. The bottom line is they need to start stacking wins on top of each other and collecting as many points as possible. Tuesday’s win was a good start as it gives them consecutive wins for just the second time since early December, and comes after they had lost five of their previous six games.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators

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Projected lineups

Chicago Blackhawks

Alex DeBrincatJonathan ToewsAnthony Duclair

Brandon SaadNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane

Ryan HartmanArtem AnisimovTommy Wingels

Vinnie HinostrozaDavid KampfTomas Jurco

Duncan KeithJordan Oesterle

Erik GustafssonBrent Seabrook

Michal KempnyConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Anton Forsberg

NHL on NBCSN: Preds look to deliver blow to Blackhawks’ playoff chances

Nashville Predators

Filip ForsbergRyan JohansenViktor Arvidsson

Scott HartnellKyle TurrisCraig Smith

Kevin FialaNick BoninoCalle Jarnkrok

Miikka SalomakiColton SissonsAustin Watson

Roman JosiRyan Ellis

Alexei EmelinP.K. Subban

Mattias EkholmMatt Irwin

Starting goalie: Juuse Saros

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Detroit Red Wings

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PROJECTED LINES

Chicago Blackhawks

Brandon SaadNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane

Alex DeBrincatJonathan ToewsAnthony Duclair

Tomas JurcoDavid KampfVinnie Hinostroza

Patrick SharpArtem AnisimovRyan Hartman

Duncan KeithJordan Oesterle

Erik GustafssonBrent Seabrook

Michal KempnyConnor Murphy

Startling goalie: Anton Forsberg

[Preview: ‘Hawks take four-game losing streak on the road to Detroit]

Detroit Red Wings

Andreas AthanasiouDylan LarkinTyler Bertuzzi

Anthony ManthaHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

Tomas TatarFrans NielsenLuke Glendening

Martin FrkDominic TurgeonLuke Witkowski

Danny DeKeyserNick Jensen

Niklas KronwallMike Green

Jonathan EricssonXavier Ouellet

Startling goalie: Jimmy Howard