Blackhawks

Five Things: Crawford struggles in Blackhawks loss to Canucks

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Five Things: Crawford struggles in Blackhawks loss to Canucks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – We’ve reached that point in the Circus Trip where the Blackhawks will go to a place that’s decidedly not about hockey – well, not yet, anyway.

The Blackhawks hit the midway point of this trip feeling the same way they did when they embarked on it: they’re looking for consistency, especially when it comes to results. They didn’t go into this break on a high note, dropping a 6-3 decision to the Vancouver Canucks. So before we enjoy our own two-day respite from hockey, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to Vancouver.

[MORE: Sedins power Canucks past Blackhawks]

1. Patrick Kane keeps the point streak alive but… Kane didn’t sound too happy with his game at the moment. Sounds strange coming from a player who’s now on a 16-game point streak, a career best. But Kane said he has to get better. “I don’t know if I’m extremely happy with my game right now,” he said. “I want to improve a little bit here, especially going into the California trip, create more scoring chances out there. Hopefully a couple of days off and I’ll feel good going into California."

2. Corey Crawford “OK.” Again, that’s a coach Joel Quenneville assessment, which is never a positive one. Crawford dazzled us all a few days ago with his stop on Taylor Hall, which helped the Blackhawks stay in an overtime game they eventually won against the Edmonton Oilers. But on Saturday against the Canucks, when the rest of the Blackhawks played a pretty solid game, Crawford was not at his best.

3. An interesting top line. It seemed a bit odd to look down at pregame line rushes and see Jonathan Toews flanked by Andrew Shaw and Ryan Garbutt. But that line ended up being one of the most energetic of the night. Garbutt scored his first with the Blackhawks and Quenneville liked what the trio brought. Garbutt liked the combination, too. “Shawzy’s awesome to play with. I think we worked well together. We both play with speed and obviously Jonny just does what he does,” he said.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. The Sedins aren’t finished yet. Daniel and Henrik Sedin aren’t in their prime anymore but the twins reminded us all that they still can work their magic sometimes. Daniel Sedin had a hat trick and an assist and Henrik had a goal and four assists. The Canucks had won just one of their last eight games entering Saturday night; the Sedins gave them several reasons to enjoy this one.

5. A quick break, then back to business. Quenneville joked prior to the game that you could “flip a coin” on how the Blackhawks do in games before and after their Las Vegas portion of this trip. Well, that could describe the Blackhawks through this early season. They’ve had their ups and downs, and this isn’t how they wanted to go into this break. They need to rebound and finish the second portion of this trip strong, otherwise they could get lost in the Central Division shuffle fast.

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."