Blackhawks

Five Things: Toews, Blackhawks get physical with Blues

blackhawks-blues-five-things-11-14-15.png

Five Things: Toews, Blackhawks get physical with Blues

Bringing players back into the fold usually yields great results.

The Blackhawks were hoping they’d get that when they welcomed Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival back on Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues, and that’s what they got. They played a stronger game. They looked more balanced. They looked a little more like themselves.

So before we head back to Chicago, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over the Blues.

[MORE: Blackhawks rally to beat Blues in wild game]

1. Duncan Keith is back. Remember all that stuff about the Blackhawks watching his minutes? Who bought that? If you were one of those who knew it was going to take a crowbar to pry Keith off the ice, you’re correct. Keith, barely four weeks off surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, played 27 minutes, 34 seconds. Keith expects to play on Sunday against Calgary. Said Corey Crawford, “He looked pretty good out there. Playing that many minutes, it’s always tough no matter how much you do it in the gym or whatever. It’s always tough the first game back. It seems like you try to get that second wind when you come back but he was really good.”

2. Patrick Kane does it again. The Blackhawks were regaining momentum back late in the second period and thanks to Kane, they also regained the lead. Kane’s power-play goal, the eventual game-winner for the Blackhawks, was his 12th of the season. It also extended the forward’s point streak to 12 consecutive games, two shy of his career best. Said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock of the Blackhawks finding the late answers, “That’s what that team’s done… they make big plays at the right time. That’s why they win championships. If we want a piece of the pie in this division, in this conference, we’re going to have to have more people make big plays at the right time.”

3. Michal Rozsival returns. No, the veteran defenseman didn’t log Keith-like minutes – Rozsival played a little more than 13 minutes – but he brought stability to a defensive group that needed it. Coach Joel Quenneville said, “Rozi gives you real good patience back there, good play recognition, sees plays and has patience with the puck. It’s a different look with those two back there [Keith and Rozsival]… so welcome back to the two of them.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Others scored. This is what the Blackhawks needed more than anything: more guys contributing offensively. Andrew Shaw scored his second goal of the season, tipping a Keith shot early in the game. Trevor van Riemsdyk added his second of the season, scoring from the left point in the second period. Keith said, “it seemed like we had some good contributions from a lot of guys. A lot of good things out there and things that we can work on and build off of.”

5. This fight was OK. Quenneville talked recently of Jonathan Toews’ recent penchant for pugilism. He said it was a fine line on whether he wanted his captain involved in fights but on Saturday night, he agreed with Toews fighting David Backes. The Blues captain boarded Niklas Hjlmarsson early in the second period and Toews went after Backes. Hjalmarsson returned to the game after going to the locker room immediately after that hit.

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

2-24_blue-jackets_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg
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

2-23_berube_schmaltz_usat.jpg
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."