Blackhawks

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime win over Devils

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime win over Devils

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night:

1. Corey Crawford continues to shine.

If it weren't for Crawford and his timely saves, the score and outcome may have been completely different. He's clearly been the MVP of the team so far this season and showed why again after stopping 30 of 32 shots — 28 of those in the first two periods — in Friday's overtime win over the Devils. Crawford has allowed 17 goals this season, but 13 of them have come on the power play. His even strength save percentage improved to .971, which ranks No. 1 among all starting goaltenders.

2. Patrick Kane getting hot.

Kane is on a quiet little three-game point streak, and has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his last six games. It was Game 6 last year when he started a streak of registering at least a point in 26 consecutive games, a franchise record. His three-game point streak began on the sixth game this year, too. Could we see another lengthy one coming? Probably not, but it's worth watching how this plays out.

3. Artem Anisimov extends point streak, improves at faceoff circle.

Anisimov extended his point streak to a career-best six games, and scored his second game-winning goal of the season. He now has five goals and five assists during that streak, in which the Blackhawks are 4-1-1, on top of a plus-8 rating and an astonishing 45.5 shooting percentage.

He's also gotten a slow start at the dot this year, but fared much better against the Devils, winning eight of 16 draws. Entering Friday, he won only 35 of 100 faceoffs.

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4. Special teams come up big.

The Blackhawks' penalty kill allowed another goal, but it moved above 50 percent on the season and killed off a crucial penalty towards the latter stages of the third period while trailing 2-1. After killing off a Patrick Kane slashing penalty, the Blackhawks went on a four-minute power play thanks to a Vernon Fiddler double-minor high-sticking penalty and they capitalized.

With 2:11 left and Crawford pulled for the extra attacker, Marian Hossa potted the game-tying goal that essentially forced overtime. It was the second power-play goal of the game for the Blackhawks, who finished 2-for-5 on the man advantage and went 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. Progress.

5. Top dogs get heavy minutes.

After relying heavily on his top guys in a 5-4 shootout win over Toronto last Saturday, coach Joel Quenneville said he wants to balance out the lines more and distribute the minutes more evenly throughout the roster.

The top two lines absorbed the majority of the ice time on Friday, led by Patrick Kane (23:34) and Jonathan Toews (22:48), but it was justified this time around considering a chunk of that time was spent either on the power play or penalty kill.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."