Blackhawks' Gustafsson on brink of assist-streak record
Erik Gustafsson is on quite a run.
One that may land him in the Blackhawks record book this week.
Scouting reportBlackhawks vs. New Jersey Devils, 6 p.m. at the United Center
TV: NBCSCH • Radio: WGN 720-AM
The skinny: New Jersey shocked the hockey world by going 44-29-9 to qualify for the playoffs last season, but the Devils haven't come close to replicating that success in 2018-19. The Devils are 6-5-0 over their last 11 games, but 5 of those wins came over Ottawa, Carolina, Vancouver, Arizona and Philadelphia. New Jersey is 12-5-4 at home. ... The Devils have the second-best penalty kill in the league (85.7 percent), behind only Arizona (88.6 percent). … Taylor Hall (11G, 26A in 33 GP), Kyle Palmeri (20G, 16A) and Nico Hischier (13G, 18A) are the Devils' leading scorers. Hall, who had 39 goals and 54 assists last season, has been out since Dec. 23 with a lower-body injury.
Next: New York Rangers, 6 p.m. Thursday at Madison Square Garden
-- John Dietz
Gustafsson, who seems to be gaining more and more confidence every time he steps on the ice, has recorded an assist in eight straight contests.
Now, that's not nearly as impressive as Patrick Kane's 26-game points streak three years ago, but Gustafsson is just two games shy of tying Pierre Pilote's franchise record for most assists in consecutive games.
The Hawks are at New Jersey on Monday and at the Rangers on Thursday.
"He's making a lot of plays," said coach Jeremy Colliton after Gustafsson registered 2 helpers in the Hawks' 4-3 overtime loss to Vegas at the United Center on Saturday. "That's what he's bringing for us and obviously we hope he continues to do that. He's a big reason why the power play's doing as well as it is."
Indeed, 7 of Gustafsson's 11 assists during this run have come with the Hawks on the man advantage. Since Nov. 20, he also ranks sixth among all D-men with 22 points (7G, 15A) and is tied for first in goals.
This is just the seventh time a Hawks defenseman has put together an assist streak of eight games or longer. Incredibly, Pilote did it four times. His franchise-record 10-game run came between Feb. 4-Feb. 21, 1961.
Pilote's 400 assists rank ninth in Blackhawks history, and he added another 18 with the Maple Leafs in 1968-69. He was a three-time Norris Trophy winner (1963-65) and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975.
Believe it or not, the Blackhawks (16-22-9) are just 6 points behind Minnesota and 7 behind Colorado for the two wild-card spots in the Western Conference.
Sounds doable, right?
Well, not so fast.
The biggest issue is that the Hawks have played two more games than the Avs and three more than the Wild. They've also played more games than four of the five teams ahead of them that are also trying to qualify for the postseason.
If there's any hope of a miracle run -- and hockeyreference.com puts the Hawks' chances at 3.0 percent as of Saturday -- it's in the upcoming schedule.
Coach Jeremy Colliton's squad absolutely must rattle off a slew of victories over New Jersey (17-20-7), the Rangers (18-20-7), Washington (27-12-5), the Islanders (25-15-4), Buffalo (3-7-1 last 11), Minnesota (22-19-3), Edmonton (3-9-0 last 12), Vancouver (21-21-5), Detroit (3-10-3 last 16), Boston (26-15-4), New Jersey, Columbus (27-15-3), Ottawa (5-12-2 last 19) and Detroit over the next 38 days.
Something like a 10-3-1 stretch seems absolutely necessary for GM Stan Bowman to consider standing pat or -- gasp -- actually making a move to bolster his roster.
By the numbers:
Since the beginning of last season, Patrick Kane is tied for 18th in goals with 52 and Alex DeBrincat is tied for 21st with 51. The top three are Washington's Alex Ovechkin (81), Winnipeg's Patrik Laine (68) and Edmonton's Connor McDavid (68). Kane is 13th in points with 136. McDavid and Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov lead the way with 175. … With a goal and an assist vs. Vegas on Saturday, it marked the fourth straight game Kane had multiple points. It is just the second time he's done that in his career (Dec. 8-14, 2013). … Paced by Drake Caggiula (5), the Blackhawks had a season-high 30 hits vs. the Golden Knights on Saturday.
The Blackhawks assigned defenseman Brandon Davidson to Rockford on Sunday. Davidson, who recently came back from a knee injury, has 1 assist in 10 games.