Blackhawks

Blackhawks lock up Richard Panik with two-year extension

Blackhawks lock up Richard Panik with two-year extension

When Richard Panik had his final season media session on April 22, he didn’t know what the future held for him. Coming off what he considered his most consistent season in the NHL, he hoped to return to the Blackhawks.

Now he will.

The Blackhawks and Panik agreed on a two-year extension, the team announced on Thursday. In a statement, general manager Stan Bowman said, “Richard made tremendous strides this past year and we were pleased with the consistency he showed throughout the season. We are looking forward to having him in Chicago for the next two seasons.”

Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported that Panik’s deal has a cap hit of $2.8 million per season. Panik is coming off a one-year deal with a $875,000 cap hit. Speaking on a conference call on Thursday morning, Panik said the deal the Blackhawks offered was a good one and there was, “not much thinking about it.”

Panik gets a raise but he earned it with his 2016-17 regular season, when he set career highs in goals (22), assists (22) and points (44). Panik was happy with his season, right up until the first round of the playoffs.

“I think when I look back at the season, this was my most consistent season in the NHL. That’s good. But when you get swept in the playoffs it’s not looking good, your individual season,” Panik said on April 22. “So you’re disappointed.”

Still, Panik provided a net-front presence that the Blackhawks needed this past season and will need going forward. He helped the top line find some stability, as he, Jonathan Toews and Nick Schmaltz were together for most of the season’s second half.

The Blackhawks will face another offseason of number crunching, and Panik’s new deal will add to that. According to CapFriendly.com, the Blackhawks are more than $3.6 million above the current cap ceiling ($73 million). That includes bonuses of more than $3.5 million that players earned in the 2016-17 season. In March, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the 2017-18 cap could be between $75.5-$76 million, depending on inflator negotiations with the NHLPA. Even with the increase, the Blackhawks will have some math to do.

Also, will the Blackhawks protect Panik in the upcoming expansion draft? It would seem they would, considering how happy they’ve been with Panik’s progression. The Blackhawks have to leave two forwards unprotected: Panik, Marcus Kruger, Ryan Hartman and Jordin Tootoo are all eligible to be exposed in the expansion draft.

“There is still a chance but hopefully Chicago will protect me,” Panik said. “My main reason [in re-signing] was I wanted to stay in Chicago. So hopefully they will protect me and I’ll stay here.”

Since coming to the Blackhawks in a minor-league trade in January of 2015, Panik has done some great things here. If the Blackhawks protect him, he’ll look to build off last season.

“I know how good I am, what I’m capable of and how I can play,” he said on Thursday. “Chicago gave me the opportunity and that’s what it’s all about. I wanted to show them, wanted to earn a spot on the team that was my main focus in training camp, to earn a spot and go from there.”

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

sharpkanetoews.jpg
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?

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

patricksharp.png
USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”