Artem Anisimov

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to Maple Leafs

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to Maple Leafs

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night:

1. Anton Forsberg stands on his head.

Due to Corey Crawford's remarkable numbers against Montreal, Joel Quenneville elected to go with Forsberg between the pipes in Toronto and it turned out to be a solid decision despite the overall result.

He stopped 39 of 43 shots (.906 save percentage) in his official team debut, and essentially stole a point for the Blackhawks, who were outshot 43-21. The only blemish was a soft goal he allowed on Toronto's first goal of the game, when Nikita Zaitsev slipped a shot past Forsberg's five-hole.

Other than that, he picked up exactly where he left off in preseason.

2. Saad-Toews-Panik line continues to impress.

We're already running out of things to say about this trio. They've been one of the best lines in hockey to open the season, and they were far and away the best line for the Blackhawks in this one again.

Jonathan Toews scored his second goal in as many games, which was assisted by linemates Richard Panik and Brandon Saad, that gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead in the first period. Panik added a power play goal in the third, giving the three of them a combined nine goals and six assists through three games.

They were also the only three players on the Blackhawks to finish with positive even-strength possession numbers against a Maple Leafs club that absolutely dominated in that area.

3. Nick Schmaltz's absence felt.

The Blackhawks got away with not having their second-line center in Saturday's game against Columbus, but they couldn't overcome it Monday.

Patrick Kane (minus-25 Corsi), Ryan Hartman (minus-20) and Artem Anisimov (minus-18) had the worst even-strength possession numbers among all skaters, and were all held pointless.

Schmaltz is a huge part of this Blackhawks team. His speed changes the way that line plays, and his absence is magnified when he's not in there because it puts more offensive responsibility on the bottom six centers who have a defense-first mentality and are pushed up into the lineup.

4. Forsling-Rutta pairing strong again.

The Blackhawks spent a lot of time in their own end, but Gustav Forsling and Jan Rutta had to be the best pairing in the loss.

Rutta scored a goal for the second straight game, and added an assist later on for his first multi-point game in the NHL. He now has two goals and two assists during his three-game point streak.

Forsling has also recorded a point in three consecutive games, all of which have been assists. He slapshotted a perfect pass off the end boards that ricocheted right to Panik, who buried home Chicago's third goal. Forsling finished with five shot attempts, tied for the team lead with a pair of blocked shots and logged 16:23 of ice time, 3:26 of which came on the penalty kill.

5. Busy evening for special teams.

There were 13 penalties committed between the two teams, leading to plenty of whistles and man advantages.

The Blackhawks had six power-play opportunities and cashed in on one of them, while the Maple Leafs also converted on one of their eight chances. Toronto has scored a power play goal in each of its first three games, and lead the league with a 37.5 percent success rate.

And it probably could've added one or two more if it weren't for Forsberg's strong play in net.

All the feels: Patrick Kane reflects on chemistry with Artemi Panarin

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USA TODAY

All the feels: Patrick Kane reflects on chemistry with Artemi Panarin

Patrick Kane watched on Friday night. Of course he did. It was Artemi Panarin’s Columbus Blue Jackets regular-season debut and Kane had to see what his former former linemate did.

Not surprisingly, it was a pretty good night for the Russian left wing.

“He looks like he normally does, smooth with the puck, very smooth carrying it up the ice,” Kane said. “Nothing new for him.”

There’s no doubt Kane still misses Panarin, with whom he had an undeniable chemistry from the start. They clicked as well off the ice, too, getting through the language barrier with a little help from Google translate. After being part of different combinations for a number of years Kane had line stability for two consecutive seasons. So yeah, he’s a little sentimental about that whole stable setup with him, Panarin and Artem Anisimov.

“It’s kind of, I guess, fun to look back. Maybe even a little sad to look back at the chemistry we had. But obviously time’s moved on now and you gotta adjust to certain players and make it with new linemates,” Kane said. “But for first game our team was pretty good.”

Whether or not Kane finds the same longstanding chemistry with Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman remains to be seen but, entering Saturday’s game against the Blue Jackets, it’s off to a tremendous start. Kane benefitted from Schmaltz’s speed the way he used to Panarin’s creativity, the two clicking after working together for part of the summer and most of the preseason. And with Hartman providing the net-front presence Anisimov did the past two seasons, the production was there.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with Kane waxing sentimental on Panarin. It was a hell of a line to watch the past two seasons. Considering the Blue Jackets played on Friday, Kane probably won’t see Panarin until warmups on Saturday night. Maybe there’ll be some chatter, perhaps some chirping. Or maybe it’ll be simpler — “maybe even just looking at him or something like that.”

Kane, Schmaltz and Hartman had a good first game and there’s a chance the three could have a long, prosperous season together. Kane appreciated having two seasons’ worth of that with Panarin.

“He’s a really good kid, fun to get along with. We had plenty of battles on the bench where we were mad at each other but I think that’s a sign of a healthy relationship,” Kane said. “He was fun to have around.”

Big leap from OHL to NHL no big deal to Alex DeBrincat

Big leap from OHL to NHL no big deal to Alex DeBrincat

When Alex DeBrincat first came to Blackhawks training camp he was eyed with some caution. Sure, he had been a great and productive player in the Ontario Hockey League but this was the NHL. This was a big leap. This was a transition that would require DeBrincat to spend some seasoning time in the AHL at the start of the season.

The only Rockford assignment DeBrincat will be taking right now will be for paperwork purposes.

The 19-year-old was strong from the start of training camp and he’s expected to be in the Blackhawks’ starting lineup when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. The Blackhawks assigned DeBrincat to Rockford on Tuesday but that’s just a cap-compliant formality. Coach Joel Quenneville confirmed that the Blackhawks can place Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve, and they’ll do that on Wednesday. Once that’s done the Blackhawks will free up cap space, allowing them to recall DeBrincat (and Gustav Forsling, who was also assigned on Tuesday).

So DeBrincat has made it. And he’s earned it.

“Getting up here against better players, he just seems to have that knack of knowing where the puck is and he does some great things in tight areas against better players and doesn’t change. Having that ability shows the upside is real there at this level,” Quenneville said following Tuesday’s practice. “He immediately showed he could handle playing against good players and playing with good players.”

DeBrincat has said that he credits one last season in the OHL with the Erie Otters was very beneficial to him. He played a lot of hockey, which was a good prep for the 82-game grind of an NHL season and he worked on his two-way game, improving his defense. DeBrincat knew what the Blackhawks wanted from him, and he’s gotten there.

“I think just in this past year since I’ve been drafted, all the staff has really helped me develop my game and got me to this point to play here. They wanted me here just as bad as I wanted to be here,” he said. “I know I’ve said that before but I really mean it, and they’ve really helped me with my development.”

If Tuesday’s practice was any indication DeBrincat will start Thursday’s game on the third line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Sharp. But he’s moved around plenty already this preseason. He also played some with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane on the second line and a preseason game with top liners Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik. Good thing DeBrincat is familiar with frequent changes.

“There was a good amount,” DeBrincat said of his Erie days. “Coach [Kris Knoblauch] liked to try new things; if something wasn’t going right, he’d change it. I’m pretty used to the line changes.”

DeBrincat admitted there was a little nervousness the past two weeks. If he didn’t make the team right out of the gate it wasn’t the end of the world but this was nevertheless the goal. He talked often with former Otters teammate Dylan Strome, who made the Arizona Coyotes roster on Tuesday.

“We’re going through the same thing and we talk a lot,” DeBrincat said. “It’s cool to go through it with someone else and take the same kind of road.”

DeBrincat’s parents will be at the United Center on Thursday when he makes his NHL debut. There’ll be ups and downs – every player goes through them regardless of experience – but this was DeBrincat’s goal and he’s made the jump from the OHL to the NHL look easy.