Five Things: Blackhawks have defensive kinks to fix


Five Things: Blackhawks have defensive kinks to fix

Yep, it’s back. And as Andrew Shaw asked two springs ago when he came back from injury, “miss me?”

We’re talking Five Things, our regular staple after every regular-season game. We’ll skip over the normal lead-in with this story — there was plenty of pomp and circumstance during the banner-raising ceremony. So here they are, Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 season-opening loss to the New York Rangers.

1. The kid is all right. The kid we’re referring to is the forward the Blackhawks have dubbed “Bread Man.” Artemi Panarin looked good in his one preseason game and he looked good again on Wednesday night, when he scored his first career NHL goal. Coach Joel Quenneville talked of Panarin’s skill and puck-handling ability and once again liked the combination of the young Russian, Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov. The Blackhawks might be onto something there, and Panarin is definitely off to a great start.

[MORE: Blackhawks banner raising night spoiled by Rangers]

2. Defensive kinks. Yeah, they were a problem in the early going. Quenneville called Trevor van Riemsdyk, Trevor Daley — who were a pair — and David Rundblad “just OK.” That’s not high praise in Q-speak. But it sounds like help is on the way. Quenneville said Viktor Svedberg, who was reassigned to Rockford for cap purposes on Tuesday, will “likely” return for the weekend. It also sounds like the big Swede will be in the lineup this weekend. Once that happens, Quenneville said he’ll have, “a clearer indication of who’s going to play with who.”

3. Marian Hossa is still a marvel. There was a sequence in Wednesday’s game when Hossa was playing keep-away for seemingly an entire shift. It’s what he does best. OK, scoring goals is what he does best but his strength in holding the puck is a close second. Some day Hossa will show his age. He isn’t right now.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Ceremonies don’t translate into sparks. The Blackhawks have now lost two of the last three games that began with their banner-raising ceremony. So let’s just say they don’t get off to the best starts on these otherwise celebratory nights. Maybe it’s the emotions of the evening, but the Blackhawks did not have the necessary jump and attention to detail to start this one tonight.

5. Go Cubs. Those were Quenneville’s parting words at the end of his postgame press conference, and it’ll be the end of our story, too. Hey, you end on a positive, right?

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?