Blackhawks

Five Things: Corey Crawford bounces back in Blackhawks win

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Five Things: Corey Crawford bounces back in Blackhawks win

OK, we get it: the second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane should probably never be broken up again.

Then again, their separation seemed to make for a happy reunion on Sunday night, and it resulted in a lot of points for each player and a 4-2 victory for the Blackhawks over the Edmonton Oilers. We’re a little under the weather – let’s go with upper body – so let’s get right to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory.

[MORE: Kane, Panarin power Blackhawks to win over Oilers]

1. The second line is great. OK, the quick down note is that all the Blackhawks’ offense is once again coming from just one line. The upside is, it’s one hell of a line to watch. The Blackhawks had 11 points on Sunday; the second line had nine of those (Kane a goal and three assists, Panarin two goals and an assist and Anisimov a goal and an assist). Asked why being with Kane and Anisimov was even better this time around, Panarin – through Viktor Tikhonov – said: “because I scored two goals.”

2. Corey Crawford’s comeback. Crawford went through two really bad games last week. He was pulled after allowing three goals in the first period against New Jersey but coach Joel Quenneville knew he’d go back to his No. 1 goaltender on Sunday vs. the Oilers. Crawford responded the right way, stopping 34 shots, including all 22 in the second period, en route to the victory. Said Crawford, “I wanted to come back strong, especially when your coach gives you the net again. You want to prove him right, do well for him. I felt a lot better.”

3. Marian Hossa fine in his return. Hossa showed no ill effects of the lower-body injury that kept him out for over a week. Hossa was his strong self on the puck, and the penalty he drew in the waning moments – a holding call on Oscar Klefbom – led to Anisimov’s power-play goal late in the game.

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4. Anisimov, too. The second-line center suffered a lower-body injury and missed the third period of the Blackhawks’ loss against New Jersey. But he was back anchoring that ultra-successful line and quietly going about his own goal-scoring business. Anisimov now has six on the season, and his assist on Kane’s goal gave him his 200th career NHL point.

5. The record remains the same. By that we mean the Blackhawks’ current mark of 8-6-1, which was the same record they had through their first 15 games last season. Now there are a lot of differences between this team and that one – this year’s group is much younger, and the Blackhawks still need more than one line scoring. Still, with all the turnover and injuries – Duncan Keith is still out for probably another week – the Blackhawks are doing just fine in the early going.

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."