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."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for third straight win vs. Panthers

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for third straight win vs. Panthers

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Florida Panthers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Can Patrick Kane build off two-point performance?

For the first time since 2009, Kane had gone four straight games without a point and it was almost five but he recorded two assists in the third period of Sunday's 3-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

It was important for his line overall to get going again, and they did just that Sunday when Artem Anisimov scored the go-ahead goal and Nick Schmaltz added some insurance, with Kane assisting on both of those goals.

The Panthers rank dead last in goals against, so there's an opportunity for Kane and Co. to build some momentum on offense.

2. Power play breakout?

Alright, here's your chance. The Blackhawks have scored only one power-play goal in their last 17 tries, and have slipped to 29th overall in that area but are welcoming a Panthers team that ranks among the bottom 5 in penalty kill percentage.

The Blackhawks just haven't been able to get anything going with the man advantage, whether it's net front presence, quality shots or failed entries. Not scoring isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when it's two minutes of nothing, it can be a momentum killer. Fixing that is Step 1.

3. Another big night vs. Florida for top line?

The last time the Blackhawks played the Panthers, the first line of Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad and Richard Panik absolutely dominated in a 4-1 win on Nov. 25. Toews and Saad each scored a goal and had multi-point efforts, which at the time were breakouts for a couple of struggling players.

Alex DeBrincat has joined those two on the first line, and that trio has been solid early on. The chemistry has been noticeable, and it should only get stronger the more they play together and figure out each other's tendencies.

Patrick Kane now has the fifth-most points in Blackhawks history

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USA TODAY

Patrick Kane now has the fifth-most points in Blackhawks history

Patrick Kane made Blackhawks history on Sunday night.

With two assists against the Arizona Coyotes, the 29-year-old forward now has the fifth-most points in franchise history with 781, passing Doug Wilson who had 779.

Here's the new Top 5:

1. Stan Mikita — 1,467

2. Bobby Hull — 1,153

3. Denis Savard — 1,096

4. Steve Larmer — 923

5. Patrick Kane — 781

Not bad company, huh?

Kane's two-point game came at a pretty good time. Entering Sunday, he was held off the scoresheet for four straight games, the longest streak of such since the 2009-10 season.

Kane snapped his slump with two points in a minute and 45 seconds.

"He's fun to watch," said Tommy Wingels of Kane. "People in here, people in this city are very, very fortunate to have a world-class player like that in their city."