Blackhawks

Five Takeaways from Blackhawks-Predators: Offense still not producing

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USA TODAY

Five Takeaways from Blackhawks-Predators: Offense still not producing

Same song, different verse. Here are Five Takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Friday night.

1. Offense still not clicking. The Blackhawks were looking for a few things from their line changes: better puck possession, better zone time and improved 5-on-5 scoring. In the first period it looked like they were onto something as they outshot the Predators 21-7 and took a 1-0 lead, albeit on a short-handed goal. The 5-on-5 production, however, was still nowhere to be found.

2. Second period issues again. It started with Duncan Keith’s gaffe, an errant pass that led to Calle Jarnkrok’s game-tying goal at the time, which seemed to deflate the Blackhawks after their strong opening 20 minutes. It didn’t help when Craig Smith’s power-play goal gave the Predators a 2-1 lead. The Blackhawks have had their share of shaky second periods. This one was the latest.

3. Penalty-laden outing. The first period was fun to watch because there was a nice flow to it. The second and third? All whistles all the time. From slashes to trips to goaltending interference (one justified call and another not so much), the stop-start stuff was frustrating.

4. Power play still not producing. The Blackhawks had six opportunities on Friday night. Their last chance may have been their best chance, as the Blackhawks showed the desperation of a team needing a tying goal in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Coach Joel Quenneville called Friday’s power play “dangerous enough,” in terms of more pucks on net, but it still came up empty.

5. Pekka Rinne does it again. The Nashville goaltender frustrated the Blackhawks in April and he was doing it again on Friday night. Could the Blackhawks have had more quality shots? Sure. But give the opposing goalie credit. Strong early and late when the Blackhawks made their biggest pushes, Rinne stopped 43 of 44 shots.

Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

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Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

Artem Anisimov wasn’t happy with his October.

The Blackhawks center struggled the first month of the season. Maybe it was adjusting to new line mates after being with the same two for two seasons. Maybe it was just a slow start. Maybe it was more than that. Regardless, Anisimov was frustrated. So as October turned to November, Anisimov told Patrick Sharp that he was going to get back on track.

“He’s scoring lots of goals and he said he was going to in the month of November,” Sharp recalled. “So he’s backing it up.”

Anisimov is doing that, recording five goals in his last three games including a hat trick against his former team, the New York Rangers, on Wednesday. Since November’s start, Anisimov has seven goals.

“My start of the season was not great,” Anisimov said. “But I keep working hard and be focused and say, ‘OK, November. I’m going to step up in November and forward.’”

When told of Anisimov’s prediction to Sharp, coach Joel Quenneville said, “well, now he set a precedent. We’ll have to look for it every month now.

“Quite a standard he was looking to achieve and got off to a great start here,” Quenneville said. “When Arty’s at the net he makes good plays, takes it to the net, draws some traffic to him and opens up other lanes behind him. I still think he has a purpose defensively, which he can add to that line.”

Anisimov’s resurgence coincides with the Blackhawks doing the same thing; after an up-and-down start, both are finding their rhythm again. For the Blackhawks it could be finding some line chemistry. For Anisimov it might be the same thing; he and Kane have been back together since Nov. 12, and those two and Nick Schmaltz have combined for a dynamic second line.

Or is it that mustache that Anisimov’s growing for Movember?

“I thought when you were saying what you were saying (about Anisimov’s vow), he made that statement when he got Kaner back on his line. But I think it was right when he shaved his beard into a mustache. That’s when he took off,” Jonathan Toews said with a laugh. “So that’s the biggest correlation right there.”

OK, teaming up with Kane again probably looms larger. The two have had great chemistry dating back to the 2015-16 season, when they first teamed with Artemi Panarin. Kane’s puck possession helps free Anisimov up to do his work at the net, and he’s been capitalizing there.

“He’s had a great month. He’s just one of those guys who gets to the front of the net and finds ways to be productive,” Kane said. “Maybe seven or eight games ago people were talking about how he was struggling and now he’s having a great start to the season. It shows how a few games can change that but he’s been great for us, not only scoring a lot of goals but a lot of big goals to get some wins.”

Still, hockey players are a superstitious lot. Players have ribbed Anisimov about the mustache — “I asked him to serve me a sparkling water on the airplane because he looks like a waiter in France or something,” Sharp said. But considering Anisimov’s mustache and the points sprouted at the same time, they’re now imploring Anisimov to keep it.

“Yep,” Anisimov said with a grin. “That’s true.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?