Blackhawks

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-1 win over Blue Jackets in Artemi Panarin's return to Chicago

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-1 win over Blue Jackets in Artemi Panarin's return to Chicago

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night:

1. Brandon Saad stays hot.

We're not sure you could've scripted a better start for Saad in his second go-around with the Blackhawks. Fresh off a hat trick on Opening Night, the 24-year-old winger found himself on the scoresheet again — and early — when he potted Chicago's second goal (on the power play) against his former club 6:04 into the first period.

He also added an assist, and finished with seven shot attempts (five on goal) in the victory. 

"His quickness is the thing that's been very noticeable," Joel Quenneville said of Saad. "Quick to pucks, quick to beating the guy to the net. That line was excellent again tonight."

2. Nick Schmaltz injured again, and it'll sideline him this time.

For the second straight game, the Blackhawks lost their second-line center to an upper-body injury. Only this time, it will force him to miss some action. Just 1:33 into the game, Schmaltz got sandwiched in between two defenders charging hard to the net while Patrick Kane was receiving a pass that he eventually scored on.

Schmaltz stayed down for a little bit, then needed help from trainers to get off the ice. He did not return, despite coming back on the bench briefly later in the period, before heading back to the dressing room for good.

Quenneville said after the game that Schmaltz will "probably" not go on the team's upcoming road trip in Toronto and Montreal: "We're thinking maybe Thursday" for a potential return.

3. Jonathan Toews is on the board.

Just about everyone scored in the Blackhawks' season-opening 10-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, except The Captain. That changed in Game No. 2, when Toews buried home his only shot of the game from new/old linemate Saad for his first goal of the season.

Toews also tallied an assist, and won an offensive zone draw that immediately led to a Richard Panik goal to get all three players from that line a tally.

Toews hasn't been shy about his intention to re-establish himself as an elite center, both on defense and offense, but especially the latter. If his line can continue playing the way it has been early on, his offensive numbers will start to come on a consistent basis.

4. Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin just fine without each other (sort of).

Remember how some were wondering how these two would survive without each other? Well, they're doing just fine.

Kane added a goal and an assist in his second game, increasing his point total to six, while Panarin set a Blue Jackets record by recording three points in his team debut Friday night.

Panarin didn't get on the scoresheet against his former team, but his line had solid even-strength possession numbers — although he was on the ice for two of the Blackhawks' goals.

Do they miss playing with each other and toying with opponents? Sure. But they're both superstars in their own right, and don't need each other to prove just how great they are individually.

But they hit the city of Chicago right in the feels after Panarin shared the exchange — through an interpreter — he had with Kane at center ice during pregame warmups: "Patrick came by and said, 'Hey, I miss you' and I said 'I miss you too' and off we went. And then we lost 5-1."

5. Jan Rutta rewarded with first career NHL goal.

An underrated part of the Blackhawks' success in their first two games this season has been their defense. In 120 minutes, they haven't had any glaring defensive lapses or spent a lot of time in their own end.

Rutta, a 27-year-old rookie, is blending right in. He's registered a point in consecutive games to kick off his NHL career, and was rewarded with his first goal Saturday after pinching in to receive a nice backhand pass by Kane before wristing it past Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo.

Rutta also owns a plus-7 rating, which may not be a great stat but at least it indicates good things are happening when he's on the ice.

"Every game I’ve seen him play I’ve been impressed with him," Quenneville said. "It was a special pass that he received from Kaner on the play, nice finish but he does a lot of good things. His anticipation, his reach, his gap, his thinking are all high end. Looks like he’s been around here the way he plays the game. He gives us some experience back there the way he handles his own game."

Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

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USA TODAY

Why Ryan Hartman is betting on himself going into another contract year with Predators

Ryan Hartman has been through this before. Back in December of 2012, he sustained a torn labrum in his right shoulder but played through it because the Plymouth Whalers were in the middle of a playoff run. He waited until the offseason to have it surgically repaired and was cleared for contact just in time for him to attend his first training camp with the Blackhawks in September of 2013.

This time was a little different though.

Hartman had been acquired by the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline in exchange for prospect Victor Ejdsell and a 2018 first- and fourth-round pick — a hefty price to pay — in hopes of serving as an additional spark plug for a Predators team looking to load up for a second consecutive Stanley Cup run.

So when Hartman was brushed by Nathan MacKinnon along the boards, lost his footing and fell on his left shoulder late in Game 4 of the first round against Colorado, he immediately knew something was up.

"It didn't feel great at all," said Hartman, who went straight to the dressing room and had team doctors pop it back into place. "I finished the game and was able to finish playoffs in like a modified sling, which sucked to play with, but it's playoffs. It's one of those things where there are many guys playing through injuries and I was one of them."

Hartman, who's been rehabbing and training in Chicago, received the green light to fully participate in hockey-related drills last Monday but was advised to delay his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut for one more week just to err on the side of caution. On Wednesday, he got back into a game-type setting and "felt good" after 50 minutes of action going up against former teammates Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane.

Now he can fully focus on this upcoming season and amp up his on-ice training to a level he couldn't get to while recovering from shoulder surgery with training camp a month away.

Hartman was a restricted free agent this summer and recently re-signed with the Predators on a one-year deal worth $875,000. Clearly, he's betting on himself to bounce back to his rookie year form when he scored 19 goals and cash out on a larger paycheck down the line, even though he had multiple longer-term offers from the Predators.

"Yeah we talked, [GM David Poile] wants me to be there, I want to be there, we have a good relationship," Hartman said. "Obviously, he gave up a lot of stuff to take me and sees me in the future of the team and I see myself there too. There's a lot of little things that go into negotiations — if it's money wise or length — and there was a various amount [of offers] that was thrown out on both sides. With no [arbitration] rights, the best thing for me and my team was to bet on myself, take the year and go from there next year."

With that comes the pressure of having to earn another contract for the second straight year, which is also risky considering he's coming off an injury that sidelined him all summer. But that's just the way he wants it.

"Either way I want to play my best, if I have a contract or not for long-term," Hartman said. "There is the benefit of having security with long-term deals, but you see guys, in history, that sign these deals and maybe have a year or two of, not really being complacent, but just feeling satisfied. I don't like the feeling of being satisfied. I'm not saying that's why I took that contract over another contract, but it was a good month and a half of debating one of the other three [offers]. My family and my agent, we chose this was the best for me and the team as well."

It's easy to see why the Predators are happy with this deal, too. Hartman is better suited to play in a bottom-six role on a really good team but has the ability to play in the top-six if needed. A strong season out of him and they'll be happy to reward him with a longer-term offer next summer. It also means he'd be making an impact while making less than $1 million, and every contending team needs those contributions from their depth players.

Pull up the Predators' CapFriendly page and you'll notice generous contract after generous contract for a majority of their players, particularly their core group. Look no further than Ryan Ellis, who signed an eight-year extension on Tuesday that carries a cap hit of $6.25 million. He certainly left money on the table but elected to take less to follow the lead of everyone else in Nashville because the ultimate goal is to keep the band together.

"You look at Sidney Crosby, one of the best players in the league, isn't even making close to the most money in the league and that's a reason why they've won two Cups," Hartman said. "They have space, maybe not necessarily as much as the Preds do, but Poile's good at that, he's good at stressing winning, the importance of winning, and keeping a team together. Sometimes when you go year to year losing four or five players every summer, it takes a toll having to introduce yourself to new guys all the time. Keeping the same group is really beneficial."

The Predators won't have to do much introducing next month. They're essentially rolling back the same team that arguably would've reached the Stanley Cup Final if they had gotten past the Winnipeg Jets. Hartman will be an important part of that group, only this time he'll be there from the start.

"That's what I'm really excited for," he said. "It's tough coming in [halfway through the season], it kind of feels like ... it's your first time getting called up with the new team. You're adjusting, you're trying not to make a mistake, trying to earn a spot, per se, earn the respect of your peers, so having that and going through a playoff run and a Game 7, if you go through a Game 7 with anybody, it's a bond. The stuff you fight through and you play for each other, to be able to go through a training camp and the ups and downs throughout the whole season, it's going to be exciting. I fell in love with the group for the short time I was there and I'm excited to be there at the start of training camp."

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 4: Roster overview

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 4: Roster overview

In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.

Starting a dynasty means you have to identify a group of core players to build your team around. Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews were those guys, along with Marian Hossa, who joined that mix later on.

You also need a mixture of young talent and strong veterans to fill out the depth to become successful. That's exactly what the Blackhawks had at the beginning of their dynasty and throughout.

On the first day of NHL free agency in 2008, the Blackhawks inked All-Star defenseman Brian Campbell to an eight-year deal, which solidified Chicago as a destination players wanted to commit to long term. That same year, Kris Versteeg emerged as the Blackhawks' third Calder Trophy candidate in two years, Martin Havlat and Andrew Ladd set a career high in points with 77 and 49, respectively, while youngsters Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien began to make a name for themselves as valuable pieces to the puzzle.

"Real good group of guys," Joel Quenneville said on Oct. 18, 2008. "I can say that it's the first time I walked in the room where, wow, I was impressed."

Six of the Blackhawks' Top 10 scorers in 2008-09 were aged 23 or younger. The average age for the other four? 27. The youth movement was real and they all contributed in a big way.