Five Things: Good work for Scott Darling vs. Blues


Five Things: Good work for Scott Darling vs. Blues

Well, the Blackhawks were close to possibly getting home ice in the first round. But that is gone now, gone in the wake of two Vladimir Tarasenko goals.

The Blackhawks squandered their 1-0 lead as Tarasenko led the St. Louis Blues to a 2-1 overtime victory on Thursday night. Now the Blackhawks can only play their regular-season finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets and watch to see what happens with the Blues and Dallas Stars in the fight for the Central Division title.

So let’s play the waiting game, folks. Until it all plays out, read Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ overtime loss to the Blues.

1. Frustrated but not devastated. The Blackhawks would’ve loved to get a victory out of this one and see how interesting things really could’ve gotten with the regular-season finales. But considering they were missing some ammo for yet another game (Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw, Artem Anisimov and Corey Crawford), they’ll lick their wounds and move on after this one. Yes, the Blackhawks have been missing a few guys for a few games now. It was bound to catch up with them as some point, wasn’t it? Thursday was that point.

2. Good work by Scott Darling. The backup goaltender has an unpredictable job. Coach Joel Quenneville says that guy always has to be ready because he never knows when he’ll be needed. Darling found that out these last few weeks, as he started 11 consecutive games after Crawford went down with an upper-body injury. He played pretty well, and was a big reason why the Blackhawks just about won on Thursday. Crawford is expected back on Saturday, but Darling did good work these past few weeks. “I felt really good tonight and the last few games,” Darling said. “It’s been a lot of fun to play.”

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3. The case for Richard Panik? Yes, we don’t know where the heck you fit the guy when the Blackhawks get healthy again. But Quenneville talks about tough decisions, and Panik is giving him one with how he’s played down the stretch. With Hossa hurt, Panik has looked good and comfortable with Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews. “I have to try and play my best every game and earn the spot for the playoffs,” he said. “I feel bad about a minus today, but I think as a line we had a good game. Had a couple chances. Too bad we didn’t score.”

4. Trevor van Riemsdyk makes a save or two. Van Riemsdyk has learned a lot in this full rookie season, and he’s played better in recent games. He was in the right place at the right time twice tonight, pushing Magnus Paajarvi’s potential goal out of the way late in regulation and then keeping the puck out of the net early in overtime. “He’s been good,” Quenneville said. “Good around the net, he really picks his spots as far as when to join off the attack, finding little pockets, be it off the rush or in zone. He anticipates the options there and (he’s) improving on his reads and coverage around the net.”

5. A quiet night for Bryan Bickell. It was another chance for Bickell who only logged nine minutes, 11 seconds of ice time. But Bickell didn’t make much of an impact in his time. Quenneville pronounced him, “OK.” But Quenneville said Bickell has to do something in the time he is on the ice. “(With) the role and job description, you have to find a way to make a contribution in the limited ice time you do get.”

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?