Antoine Vermette reflects fondly on Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run


Antoine Vermette reflects fondly on Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Antoine Vermette only played four percent of his career regular season and playoff games with the Blackhawks, but a large portion of his NHL legacy was forged during his brief time in Chicago.

Vermette scored three game-winning goals in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games last season, becoming an important piece to the Blackhawks’ third championship in the last six years. Now in his 14th year in the NHL, and back with the Arizona Coyotes, he’ll face the Blackhawks Tuesday night at Gila River Arena for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup.

“It’s tough to win,” Vermette said. “Chicago’s fans are pretty lucky the last couple years. It’s a very competitive league and it’s tough. You see guys, great players, great careers and never had a chance, not even come close to winning one. It’s tough, and that’s what makes it even more special to put your hand on it and accomplish it.

“It’s the ultimate sign of accomplishment at this level, it’s something we’ve been dreaming about since you’re a kid.”

Vermette lives in the Phoenix area and played five years here before being traded to Chicago last season. He said he considered returning to the Blackhawks over the summer, but the pull of coming back home to try to push the Coyotes’ organization forward was too great. He said he didn’t plan to head back to Arizona as soon as he was dealt away, but things worked out that way once the chaos of winning the Stanley Cup died down.

“Scored big goals for us, very timely goals for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “That line was effective as the series progressed in the Anaheim series and against Tampa Bay, as well. Gave us some more depth and experience and ultimately a great memory.”

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What Vermette said sticks out the most from his quick tenure in Chicago was the winning culture in the team’s dressing room. No matter how much adversity hit, Vermette noted how the expectations never changed for a team that’s been wildly successful over the last seven seasons.

And Vermette had something to do with that success.

“We knew what we were supposed to do and obviously the expectation that came with it,” Vermette said. “It was a special group over there, top to bottom. But I think the expectation is always there and guys are expecting a lot from them, and it starts from everyone within the organization. And there’s a sense also that goes with it, strong confidence as a group, you know you can do it and eventually you’re going to find a way to do it, and we did.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators 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. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?