Blackhawks

Five Things: Blackhawks get some secondary scoring

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Five Things: Blackhawks get some secondary scoring

On a roll. You could say that about a few Blackhawks right now. You could kind of say that about the Blackhawks, too, right now.

That mess in Nashville aside, the Blackhawks have looked good lately. With their 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, the Blackhawks have won four of their last five games and ended the night second in the Central Division. There’s a long way to go, but the Blackhawks look like they’re getting into a rhythm.

So before we take off for the evening, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Canucks.

1. Corey Crawford is complacent no more. Crawford used that word to describe several of his recent games. Well, he’s apparently gotten over it. Crawford was sharp once again, recording his second shutout in as many starts. By our calculations, Crawford’s current shutout streak is 140 minutes, 46 seconds — the last goal he gave up was Nashville forward Eric Nystrom’s at 19:14 of the second period on Tuesday night. Crawford is tracking the puck well right now, and most of them have remained in front of him.

2. Patrick Kane keeps it going. It wasn’t your usual assist, but it was nevertheless a legitimate one — possession never changed — and Kane now has a 26-game point streak because of it. Getting these points early in games has helped the Blackhawks maintain focus where it needs to be: on getting the best team result. Kane’s focus has also been team first. He’s just scoring a hell of a lot of points in the process.

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3. Dennis Rasmussen finding his niche. The center has only been here for four games, but he’s making a great impact. Rasmussen scored his second goal in his brief stint here, a goal that he wishes he had held back on so Bryan Bickell could’ve gotten credit for it. Rasmussen blamed his instincts, but he shouldn’t have. He was aggressive and making sure a goal counted. Coach Joel Quenneville liked that line of Rasmussen, Bickell and Andrew Shaw on Sunday, another sign the Blackhawks’ lines might be coming together better.

4. Others are scoring. This is a bit of a continuation of the Rasmussen mention. It was him, Shaw and, for the first time in his NHL career, Brandon Mashinter contributing goals in the third period. The Blackhawks haven’t had enough of that this season, especially from the bottom six. As Crawford said, “We’ve had our other lines play well, but it’s nice to see those guys chip in with some goals.”

5. Sizzling at home. The Blackhawks still have some things to figure out on the road, and they’ll get a chance to do that later on this month. But right now they’re taking advantage of these December home games. The Blackhawks improved to 12-3-1 at the United Center this season. They’re currently second in the Central Division, and their home record has a lot to do with that.

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."