Five Things from Game 4: Blackhawks back with a bang


Five Things from Game 4: Blackhawks back with a bang

Overtime hockey: apparently the Blackhawks can’t get enough of it.

It didn’t seem like the Blackhawks were headed for it early in the third period but there we were again nonetheless, watching the game and another evening grow longer.

[MORE: Antoine Vermette wins it in double OT as Blackhawks tie series]

It’s great, isn’t it? Oh, come one, be it a Blackhawks or an Anaheim Ducks fan, you have to love this great, riveting, dramatic hockey, even if it does throw you off your schedule. But since tomorrow is still part of a holiday weekend, we trust you’ll get through it.

So before you sleep in, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 5-4 double-overtime victory over the Ducks.

1. Back in with a bang. Antoine Vermette, back in Game 4 after being a healthy scratch in Game 3, couldn’t have written a better ending for himself in this one with his game-winning goal. Vermette wasn’t making it about him, deflecting the scratch talk and putting the team first. But others were happy to speak up on his behalf. Said Brad Richards, “it shows his professionalism. No one is happy being out of the lineup. He went out and scored maybe the biggest goal of his career. Hats off to him.”

2. Forgetting about that three-goal outburst. When the Ducks scored three goals in 37 seconds of the third period, the air went out of the United Center. While coach Joel Quenneville was thinking the timeout he called prior to Corey Perry’s go-ahead goal was “the worst time out I ever called,” the Blackhawks weren’t panicking. It’s part of their playoff DNA to keep their heads and find a way to regroup, and they did.

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

3. Corey Crawford key in OT. Any goaltender would be lamenting three goals in a short time span, whether they were his fault or not. But Crawford saved his best work for the first overtime, when he stopped 17 Ducks shots. He’d face four more in the second overtime before Vermette’s winner.

4. Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad score. The top line had been too quiet in the first three games of this series but Toews and Saad got things going in Game 4. Saad, with a little help from referee Chris Rooney (he got tangled up with Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin), scored a short-handed breakaway goal early. Toews scored early in the thirdperiod. It was the first goal for each since the Minnesota series. As Toews said of his goal, “finally got a bounce. That’s what I was waiting for.”

5. Don’t count out the Ducks. Ever. Ah, the old two-goal lead: it’s never safe, is it? That’s what the Blackhawks were up before the Ducks went on their barrage. The Ducks are good; they are very good. They have the firepower, they had the big bodies and they are still blocking a lot of shots (34 in Game 4). This series is going to remain riveting.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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


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."