Panik nets hat trick in Blackhawks’ victory

Panik nets hat trick in Blackhawks’ victory

Last fall, Richard Panik was sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ minor league team. This fall he started on the Blackhawks’ top line.

On Saturday he recorded his first career hat trick.

Panik scored three, including the game-winner, and Scott Darling stopped 33 of 36 shots as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 5-3 on Saturday night. The Blackhawks picked up their first victory of the season and Panik recorded his first hat trick in – well, he’s not sure exactly when but it’s been a while.

“I don’t even remember,” Panik said with a smile. “Maybe in juniors. Yeah, maybe juniors.”

Nick Schmaltz scored the first goal of his NHL career and Brent Seabrook added a power-play goal. This one got closer than the Blackhawks would’ve liked, especially after they had a 3-0 lead midway through the game, but they’ll take the two points.

“I didn’t like how we let them get back in the game. Even at 3-0, they had their turn to get something earlier than that and then chipped away,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Definitely a big play at the end. Nice play by Kaner.”

That play by Patrick Kane led to Panik’s third goal with 1:31 remaining in regulation. Darling was pivotal throughout and kept the Predators from finding the equalizer late.

“Yeah, I felt pretty good today,” Darling said. “Obviously some things I need to work on, it wasn’t all perfect. But nice to get the first one out of the way, get the jitters out and get a win.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]​

The Blackhawks, overall, still had their jittery moments. They allowed another power-play goal – that’s seven through three games. As pointed out earlier, a seemingly comfortable lead nearly disappeared twice; Craig Smith’s power-play goal made it 3-2 late in the second period and Viktor Arvidsson’s goal pulled the Predators to within one again, 4-3, midway through the third.

As for Panik, he got his goals the way Quenneville always preaches: by getting to the net. His first was a behind-the-back backhand that gave the Blackhawks that 3-0 lead midway through the first period. His second was his finishing a Marian Hossa drive. At first it looked like it was Hossa, who would’ve had his 500th career goal.

“I wasn’t sure,” Quenneville said afterward on who scored that goal. “Pans had the bigger celebration, so…”

The Blackhawks’ first victory wasn’t a dominating one by any means. They got there thanks to great goaltending, and from a guy who’s gone from the minors in Toronto to the top line in Chicago.

“Those first two games, I got an opportunity on the top line and we lost those two games. So we weren’t happy about it,” Panik said. “But tonight we won, so we are pretty happy.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?


With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.