Blackhawks

Second line shines again as Blackhawks top Islanders

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Second line shines again as Blackhawks top Islanders

The Blackhawks’ second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane has gotten the lion’s share of the publicity this early season, and for good reason.

The trio has been the steadiest and most productive combination, by far, for the Blackhawks. And on Saturday, that continued.

Panarin had a goal and two assists, as did Kane, and Trevor van Riemsdyk scored his first career NHL goal in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday night. The Blackhawks took the weekend back-to-back against the Islanders and have now won two of their first three games this season.

Scott Darling, in his first start of the season, stopped 28 of 29 shots for the victory. Brent Seabrook scored his first goal of the season, a 5-on-3 power-play goal, late in the game.

The Blackhawks have been trying to figure things out with their other three lines. A different player has been with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa each game – tonight it was Ryan Garbutt. Teuvo Teravainen was back centering the third line and was much more proactive. Last season’s fourth line of Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw was reunited tonight.

The one constant amid all the early season line shuffling, however, has been the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane. At one point, the three had possession in the Islanders’ zone for so long, it looked like they were on a power play. Oh, and they scored on that possession (Kane).

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“It’s something special,” van Riemsdyk said. “They’ve been playing so well together. Every time they’re on the ice they’ve got it in the offensive zone, just making stuff happen. When that’s going on, as a D-man, you’re just trying to make room for them and let them operate and do their thing.”

The Arty Line, as coach Joel Quenneville called the group after Saturday’s game, has been doing just that for three games now.

“They’ve been fun to watch,” Quenneville said. “Some special plays and special players. Their puck possession is what we try to instill and enforce, and these guys know how to protect it and instinctually know where each other is. I still think there’s growth in our game, whether it’s on the lines, our overall pace and our thought process. But I like how we’ve improved.”

The Blackhawks have steadily improved in their first three games. Gone on Saturday were the mistakes they made on Friday, those bad passes that nearly turned into Islanders goals. Darling was strong from the start, stopping what opportunities the Islanders did have. The Blackhawks’ offense did the rest, be it that second line or defensemen van Riemsdyk and Seabrook getting in on the scoring.

For van Riemsdyk, who thought he had his first career goal last season – it was, instead, credited to former teammate Kris Versteeg – Saturday’s game was worth the wait.

“It’s nice when it comes in a win the way it did,” he said. “The first one [last year,] I was unsure. This one feels a little better, knowing it was mine. So yeah, definitely a moment I’ll always remember.”

After some ups and downs in their first two contests, the Blackhawks found steadiness in their game on Saturday night. That second line has been steady from the start.

“There’s an infinite amount of skill on that line,” Darling said. “They had that one shift that put everyone in a daze just watching them pass the puck around, pass the puck around. They were great all night. It’s nice to have them on the team.”

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

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USA TODAY

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?

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USA TODAY

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.