Anisimov has four-point night as Blackhawks roll past Stars


Anisimov has four-point night as Blackhawks roll past Stars

DALLAS – The last time the Blackhawks came to Dallas, they were fine through 40 minutes before the Stars overwhelmed them in the third.

On Saturday, it was all Blackhawks from the start.

Artem Anisimov had his first four-point night in five seasons and Corey Crawford stopped 36 of 37 shots as the Blackhawks beat the Stars 5-1 at American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks now have a five-point lead over the Stars in the Central Division.

Jonathan Toews recorded the 300th assist of his career. Anisimov’s last four-point night came when he was with the New York Rangers on Jan. 19, 2011 (four assists vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs). Patrick Kane scored his 32nd goal, a new career high for a season. Niklas Hjalmarsson recorded two assists. Marian Hossa scored his 10th goal of the season and 496th of his career.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks put forth one of their more dominating outings of the season, and against a team that manhandled them at the end of their last contest.

“This was a big game,” Crawford said. “I mean, the last time they took it to us and it was a closer game than the score actually said. It was definitely one of the bigger ones this year.”

Anisimov has been a good player throughout this season. But as coach Joel Quenneville said, “tonight he gets the production to show for it.” Anisimov had three assists and a shorthanded goal.

“He quietly goes about his business without the puck and is pretty handy with it,” Quenneville said. “It’s been a good season for him to date, and he’s been a big part of our team.”

Playing a Jason Spezza-less Stars – Spezza, who has 40 points on the season, is out week to week with an upper-body injury – the Blackhawks were strong and energetic from the start. They scored in various ways, be it two shorthanded goals (Hossa and Anisimov), a power-play goal (Brent Seabrook’s 34 seconds into the game) and a 4-on-4 goal (Trevor van Riemsdyk).

They also chased former Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi. Kari Lehtonen started the second period after Niemi allowed three goals on 11 first-period shots.

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When the Blackhawks were here on Dec. 22 the Stars dominated them in the third period en route to a 4-0 victory. But this was a different night and the Blackhawks, who have looked good out of the All-Star break, wasted no time taking it to the Stars with Seabrook’s power-play goal.

Tyler Seguin got the lone goal past Crawford, a rebound off Jamie Benn’s shot that cut the Blackhawks’ lead to 2-1 late in the first period. But Crawford was otherwise strong, especially in the second period when the Blackhawks were on the defensive and badly outshot by the Stars.

“Yeah, seeing the puck well,” Crawford said. “A couple of rebounds there our guys were able to jump on, battle and get it out there. I thought our special teams were the difference; those two short-handed goals were pretty important tonight. Definitely thought that was one of the key factors in the win.”

The Blackhawks wanted to come out of the All-Star break refreshed and ready to go. They wanted to string together some victories on this latest road trip. They did that, ending with an exclamation point against their division rival.

“Yeah, that was a big win for us. Corey was unbelievable as usual; he came up with key saves in key moments. Special teams were good today, too. So yeah, great trip and we’re excited to go back home for a while now,” Hjalmarsson said. “We feel like we’ve been on the road for a month, almost, with the All-Star break, too. It’ll be fun to play at home again.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch


Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.