Five Things: All special teams, all the time for Blackhawks vs. Rangers


Five Things: All special teams, all the time for Blackhawks vs. Rangers

NEW YORK — The Blackhawks are somewhat like our country: They’re (sort of) young, (kind of) scrappy and hungry, and they’re once again atop the Central Division.

Yes, if you’ve followed the last few weeks you’ve realized the passion for "Hamilton," that musical that has filled seats at Richard Rodgers Theatre here consistently and my Twitter timeline from time to time.

Hey, we’re always looking for a fresh approach to this column. So since we were fortunate enough to finally see the hottest show in New York, we’re coming at you with a Hamilton-inspired Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers.

1. The story of tonight. It seemed to be all special teams, all the time, whether you want to view it as potent power plays or inefficient penalty kills. After scoring four power-play goals against Toronto, the Blackhawks had three more against the Rangers, including the game winner. They also gave up two, as the Rangers tagged them twice during Vinnie Hinostroza’s double-minor high-sticking penalty. But they got one more than they relinquished, so they’ll call this a win.

2. Non-stop. Remember when Artemi Panarin was struggling to score? Yeah, we really don’t either. The Russian forward was stellar on Wednesday night, claiming his first career NHL hat trick. That included the winning goal as well as the one that established the two-goal cushion at the end. Panarin missed two games due to illness recently, but he’s gotten points in six of the last eight games he’s played.

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3. Satisfied. Coach Joel Quenneville was anything but that last week, when another coach’s challenge denied the Blackhawks another goal. But Quenneville challenged the Rangers’ apparent first goal on Wednesday night, claiming Chris Kreider interfered with goaltender Corey Crawford. Officials agreed, nullifying the goal and allowing the Blackhawks to maintain their 1-0 lead at the time.

4. Wait for it. The Blackhawks practiced some patience on their second power play, with Panarin, Erik Gustafsson and Michal Rozsival going through the passing motions for some time. Just when it seemed the passing was becoming a bit too much, Panarin laced one past Henrik Lundqvist. The lull worked.

5. What comes next? The Blackhawks will get their day at the White House for the third time since 2011. As Patrick Kane said, “being able to meet the President again and be a part of that whole ceremony, it’s an exciting day for all of us. I’m sure that the guys who are on the team now that have been part of it before will enjoy it, and the guys who weren’t here will try to do it again this year and be back again.”

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?