Five Things from Hawks-Isles: Top line auditions continue


Five Things from Hawks-Isles: Top line auditions continue

Coach Joel Quenneville left New York on Friday night happier with the Blackhawks in Game 2 than in Game 1, but saying he needed to see more for Game 3.

“We have to be better,” he said.

On Saturday night, the Blackhawks were better. In their best all-around game of this early season – yes, we know three games is a small sample size – the Blackhawks got a little something from everyone in their 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders. It was a positive way to end the weekend for the Blackhawks, who won two of their first three to start the season.

[MORE: Second line shines again as Blackhawks top Islanders]

So before we wrap up the weekend, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory on Saturday night.

1. The Arty Line is pretty good. This is becoming a broken record but one the Blackhawks will listen to incessantly. That line name, by the way, came from Quenneville. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane have made a strong combination, and Panarin and Kane combined for six points (a goal, two assists each) on Saturday. All lines have their ups and downs. The Blackhawks will ride this one as long as it’s up.

2. Teuvo Teravainen looks more like himself. Teravainen has plenty of skill and he’s gotten better defensively. But he looked hesitant when on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Perhaps he feels compelled to pass to those two as often as possible but on Saturday, centering the third line, Teravainen was showing the puck possession and shot that Quenneville wants to see from him. “He’s got that high-end ability to possess [the puck] and distribute it at the right times, draw attention and make sustained plays,” Quenneville said. “We still like his effectiveness without the puck and that reliability helps him make another line we can trust and play in all situations.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. TVR improving. Trevor van Riemsdyk got off to a slow start this season – actually his camp wasn’t as good as last year’s, either. But with each passing game van Riemsdyk is looking more comfortable. It didn’t hurt that he got two points, including his first NHL goal, on Saturday night. The confidence is building. “That first game was a slow start by me, personally. That can’t happen,” van Riemsdyk said. “I think as the games have gone on I’ve felt more comfortable playing better and better. I just want to be progressing in that upward way.”

4. Darling shows no rust. Scott Darling wasn’t supposed to get the second half of the Blackhawks’ final preseason game, but he did when Corey Crawford came out for precautionary reasons. Darling said at the time it helped to get a little unexpected work in. Whether that factored into tonight, who knows, but Darling looked comfortable from the start against the Islanders. The lone goal he gave up really wasn’t his fault – it came off a turnover – but Darling looked ready for the season in stopping 28 of 29 shots.

5. Top-line auditions continue. Ryan Garbutt got his chance with Toews and Hossa on Saturday. Quenneville said Garbutt was, “all right. He was OK.” The Blackhawks will keep looking for the first-line fix – hey, it could be Teravainen again if that game he played tonight transitions to the top line. But Quenneville said the Blackhawks will try and settle on a left wing there soon.

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?