The Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs both entered Wednesday’s game mired in slumps, and, well, somebody had to win this one.
That somebody turned out to be the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime, 3-2, thanks to a William Nylander penalty shot just six seconds into the extra period.
Right off the opening faceoff Nylander found himself on a breakaway only to have his shot attempt disrupted by a Duncan Keith slash.
Nylander was awarded the penalty shot and beat Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass for the goal.
For Nylander it was his 10th goal of the season and snapped what had been a five-game goal drought. It was also just his second goal in the past 12 games.
The Maple Leafs held a 2-1 lead midway through the third period and lost it when Nick Schmaltz scored to tie the game on a controversial goal that was reviewed for goaltender interference. As Schmaltz scored, Blackhawks forward Artem Anisimov fell on top of Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen. Toronto coach Mike Babcock immediately challenged the play for goaltender interference but the play was upheld.
Here is a look at it. Judge for yourself if it should have counted.
While the Maple Leafs are pretty solid in their playoff position after Wednesday’s win (they are now 13 points ahead of the fourth-place team in the Atlantic Division), it is a completely different story for the Blackhawks.
The big story for them is that they have now lost four games in a row and five of their past six.
They are 4-9-1 over the past month and even with the point they picked up on Wednesday night still sit six points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference with still four teams ahead of them.
Getting at least one point helps a little, but it is not going to be anywhere enough. They need wins. A lot of them. They need to start getting them fast.
It is not just the point deficit that is the problem, it is the fact we are beyond the halfway point of the season and there are still a number of teams ahead of them. Those points are almost impossible to make up at this point in the season.
After Wednesday’s game the Blackhawks have 51 points through their first 48 games of the season. Over the past five 82-game seasons (skipping over the 2012-13 lockout season) there have been 70 teams that had 52 points or less through their first 48 games. Only 10 of them ended up making the playoffs. That is less than 15 percent. If you’re a Blackhawks fan and want to feel a little optimistic after Wednesday’s game, that extra point did help a little because had they not gained it and been stuck on 50 points through 48 games. Only seven percent of those teams made the playoffs over that stretch.
That is the mountain the Blackhawks are facing right now, and they are still without their starting goalie for the foreseeable future.