Five Things from Blackhawks win in Game 5: Versteeg’s new home


Five Things from Blackhawks win in Game 5: Versteeg’s new home

TAMPA, Fla. – One more down, one more to go.

The Blackhawks are one victory away from claiming their third Stanley Cup in the past six seasons. And for the first time in more than a decade, they’ll have the chance to claim the trophy on home ice thanks to their 2-1 victory over the Lightning in Game 5 on Saturday night.

[MORE: Vermette powers Blackhawks to Game 5 win over Lightning]

But the Blackhawks aren’t getting ahead of themselves. They know they haven’t won a thing yet. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, either. Before we head back home to see how Game 6 plays out, let’s look at Five Things to take from Saturday’s Game 5 victory.

1. Big performances by not-so-big names. Yes, we know Patrick Kane has yet to score in this series. The Lightning have done a good job of shutting down the Blackhawks’ superstar scorers – Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp have been held to one each. Your third- and fourth-line guys are critical this time of year and Antoine Vermette came through again on Saturday night. Three game-winning goals out of the four he’s had this postseason. Not bad.

2. Niklas Hjalmarsson’s all-around game. Hjalmarsson gets a ton of credit for his shot blocking, and for good reason. He had seven more on Saturday night. But whether it’s blocks or just handling the increased ice time – he played 28 minutes, 19 seconds, second only to Duncan Keith – Hjalmarsson has flourished. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “He's always been good. We've been fortunate to be around this guy for a lot of years, defending top players, defending tough situations, blocking shots. He's a warrior.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Kris Versteeg’s new home. Versteeg hasn’t played much this postseason but his fresh legs have been a good addition to a Blackhawks team that has to be feeling some fatigue. Versteeg moved to the third line with Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen in Game 5 and provided a big spark. He also provided the primary assist on Vermette’s winner. Versteeg was happy to be part of the process. “We’ve got so many players here who can play and put points on the board, but we wanted to be a line that could help and contribute,” he said. “And fortunately tonight was one of those nights.”

4. Benefitting from a bounce. Or in this case, a collision. Sharp scored for the first time in more than a month when Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman collided, leaving an empty net. It was an odd play that doesn’t happen often. For the Blackhawks, it was a great scoring opportunity in a series that has had few prime ones. Like Sharp said, “make sure you put that one in.”

5. Keep the butterflies at bay. The Blackhawks are going to be an excited bunch for Game 6 on Monday night. They’ve got the chance to win the Stanley Cup at home, something that hasn’t been a possibility since 1938. Several talked of wanting to win it at home for the United Center fans. But they have to be careful not to let those feelings overwhelm them. Remembering Tampa Bay’s road record ought to keep them grounded and focused.

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?