Blackhawks

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-1 win over Blue Jackets in Artemi Panarin's return to Chicago

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-1 win over Blue Jackets in Artemi Panarin's return to Chicago

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night:

1. Brandon Saad stays hot.

We're not sure you could've scripted a better start for Saad in his second go-around with the Blackhawks. Fresh off a hat trick on Opening Night, the 24-year-old winger found himself on the scoresheet again — and early — when he potted Chicago's second goal (on the power play) against his former club 6:04 into the first period.

He also added an assist, and finished with seven shot attempts (five on goal) in the victory. 

"His quickness is the thing that's been very noticeable," Joel Quenneville said of Saad. "Quick to pucks, quick to beating the guy to the net. That line was excellent again tonight."

2. Nick Schmaltz injured again, and it'll sideline him this time.

For the second straight game, the Blackhawks lost their second-line center to an upper-body injury. Only this time, it will force him to miss some action. Just 1:33 into the game, Schmaltz got sandwiched in between two defenders charging hard to the net while Patrick Kane was receiving a pass that he eventually scored on.

Schmaltz stayed down for a little bit, then needed help from trainers to get off the ice. He did not return, despite coming back on the bench briefly later in the period, before heading back to the dressing room for good.

Quenneville said after the game that Schmaltz will "probably" not go on the team's upcoming road trip in Toronto and Montreal: "We're thinking maybe Thursday" for a potential return.

3. Jonathan Toews is on the board.

Just about everyone scored in the Blackhawks' season-opening 10-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, except The Captain. That changed in Game No. 2, when Toews buried home his only shot of the game from new/old linemate Saad for his first goal of the season.

Toews also tallied an assist, and won an offensive zone draw that immediately led to a Richard Panik goal to get all three players from that line a tally.

Toews hasn't been shy about his intention to re-establish himself as an elite center, both on defense and offense, but especially the latter. If his line can continue playing the way it has been early on, his offensive numbers will start to come on a consistent basis.

4. Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin just fine without each other (sort of).

Remember how some were wondering how these two would survive without each other? Well, they're doing just fine.

Kane added a goal and an assist in his second game, increasing his point total to six, while Panarin set a Blue Jackets record by recording three points in his team debut Friday night.

Panarin didn't get on the scoresheet against his former team, but his line had solid even-strength possession numbers — although he was on the ice for two of the Blackhawks' goals.

Do they miss playing with each other and toying with opponents? Sure. But they're both superstars in their own right, and don't need each other to prove just how great they are individually.

But they hit the city of Chicago right in the feels after Panarin shared the exchange — through an interpreter — he had with Kane at center ice during pregame warmups: "Patrick came by and said, 'Hey, I miss you' and I said 'I miss you too' and off we went. And then we lost 5-1."

5. Jan Rutta rewarded with first career NHL goal.

An underrated part of the Blackhawks' success in their first two games this season has been their defense. In 120 minutes, they haven't had any glaring defensive lapses or spent a lot of time in their own end.

Rutta, a 27-year-old rookie, is blending right in. He's registered a point in consecutive games to kick off his NHL career, and was rewarded with his first goal Saturday after pinching in to receive a nice backhand pass by Kane before wristing it past Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.

Rutta also owns a plus-7 rating, which may not be a great stat but at least it indicates good things are happening when he's on the ice.

"Every game I’ve seen him play I’ve been impressed with him," Quenneville said. "It was a special pass that he received from Kaner on the play, nice finish but he does a lot of good things. His anticipation, his reach, his gap, his thinking are all high end. Looks like he’s been around here the way he plays the game. He gives us some experience back there the way he handles his own game."

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

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Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

Lance Bouma took his place at fourth-line left wing as the Blackhawks rolled their forward rushes on Tuesday morning. As the Blackhawks have tinkered with their trios, Bouma, whose final two seasons with the Calgary Flames were filled with uncertainty, has found a consistent role in this lineup.

“Obviously I was brought here for a reason,” Bouma said. “Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to in Calgary. To come here to Chicago and have that role, it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

The Blackhawks knew what they wanted from Bouma and his fellow fourth liners: some physical play, some energy and if there are any scoring opportunities, bonus. It’s a second chance for Bouma, whose contract was terminated by the Flames on June 30.

“I think it’s definitely a motivator knowing that you get in that situation where all of a sudden, ‘OK, I have to almost start over again and I have to prove to a new team that I belong in this league and I can play,’” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “There are always circumstances where teams make decisions like that. We’ve been a part of it. And moving forward as a player, you’ve gotta look at it as a fresh opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get back to playing your game.”

After recording 16 goals and 18 assists in the 2014-15 season, Bouma signed a three-year, $6.6 million deal with the Flames. The next two seasons didn’t go as planned as Bouma dealt with injuries, inconsistent play and healthy scratches. So getting that call from the Blackhawks was a huge lift.

“I was just looking forward to a fresh start and something new,” he said. “I just was ready to come into camp and have a great season and it’s been great so far.”

[MORE: Eddie Olczyk expected to return to broadcasting booth this week

Tommy Wingels, who has centered the Blackhawks’ fourth line the last several games – and will again vs. St. Louis on Wednesday – said Bouma looks “refreshed” this season.

“Obviously whether it’s a team doesn’t want to bring you back or it’s a trade or buyout, there’s certainly something that deep down gets you going,” Wingels said. “I think it was a good summer for him mentally to come to a new organization, come to a new group of guys and re-establish his game. It’s tough when you’re with the same coaches, same team for so long; maybe what you do gets taken for granted. He looks good and he’s skating really well and I think he moves really well for a big man. He’s strong on the pucks and he’s a good asset for us.

Bouma isn’t here to be a top-six player. He’s not here to fulfill a contract that he no longer has. The Blackhawks needed depth, energy and a physical presence and in brining that, Bouma has earned steady work.  

“We knew the player coming in that we wanted him to play that style and he’s done a good job of it, too,” Quenneville said of Bouma. “So it’s something we were looking for in our needs and it fit perfectly."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Tracey Myers and Pat Boyle discuss Nick Schmaltz returning to the Blackhawks line-up on Wednesday night and which player is looking forward most to his return?

They also weigh in on Corey Crawford’s incredible start to the season and why he’s the major reason why the Hawks begin the week in first place in the Central.

They also discuss who is the biggest Hawks rivalry right now, which new defenseman has impressed the most and how is Connor Murphy dealing with being a healthy scratch at times this season?

Plus, they discuss someone other than Nick Schmaltz returning to work on Wednesday night.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: