Blackhawks

Artemi Panarin nets Blackhawks' OT winner at Blues

Artemi Panarin nets Blackhawks' OT winner at Blues

ST. LOUIS – Patrick Kane described Artemi Panarin as “an undercover tough, wiry kid,” and said he wondered recently how the Russian forward would do if he ever got in a fight. He soon found out.

“He did amazing,” Kane said of Panarin, who fought Scottie Upshall after hitting Upshall face-first into the glass. “He’s a tough kid.”

Fighting probably will never be Panarin’s strong suit but finishing is, and he had that on Wednesday, too.

Panarin scored the overtime winner and Corey Crawford stopped 27 of 28 shots as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 on Wednesday. The Blackhawks have now won seven in a row and eight of their last nine. Their last regulation loss was Oct. 21, a 3-2 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With the victory may have come another loss. Artem Anisimov left in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. Coach Joel Quenneville said Anisimov was day-to-day. Asked if a concussion spotter pulled Anisimov, Quenneville said, “we don’t like talking about injuries. I’m not going to say what it was but I don’t think that was part of it.”

Panarin was serving five minutes for fighting as the Blackhawks entered overtime with 24 seconds of power-play time remaining (delay of game from Alex Pietrangelo). The Blues killed that off but one second later Panarin hit the ice and got the game-winner. It was his sixth goal of the season.

“He was ready to go,” Quenneville said of the rested Panarin. He didn’t mind the fight, either. “You gotta love the way he competes. Give him credit. He got the Gordie Howe [hat trick] tonight.”

Indeed, Panarin had an assist on Marian Hossa’s seventh goal of the season to complete that trick.

[RELATED: Five things from Blackhawks-Blues]

Crawford was once again stellar for the Blackhawks; his biggest save was late in the third period on Vladimir Tarasenko, a stop that looked similar to Scott Darling’s stop on Stars forward Patrick Eaves on Sunday.

“Yeah it was kind of a broken play in front of the net there,” Crawford said. “I kind of saw he was going on the backhand. He didn’t shoot right away. He kind of wound up with it. I just tried to force it in there and it gave me enough time to get over.”

Crawford kept the Blues at bay until Pietrangelo’s shot got through him with 2:11 remaining in regulation. The Blackhawks challenged for goaltender interference – Jori Lehtera was planted in front of the net – but the goal stood following review. It wouldn’t matter. Just 25 seconds into overtime, Panarin was finishing things off.

The Blackhawks are winning in a variety of ways. Mostly it’s goaltending but they played a good all-around contest against the Blues. You didn’t expect to see Panarin fight in this one, but you weren’t surprised to see him finish.

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Kaapo Kakko

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 194 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from The Draft Analyst's Steve Kournianos:

"Multi-tooled winger with size and coordination who incorporates his impressive puck skills with a desirable physical package that consistently exhausts opponents. Blessed with incredibly soft hands and tight-quarter quickness, Kakko is a reliable stickhandler who uses timing plays to either get open or create space for his linemates.”

NHL player comparable: Mikko Rantanen

Fit for Blackhawks:

Alright, let’s get this out of the way with: Kakko isn’t going to be on the board when the Blackhawks pick at No. 3. He’s expected to be taken second overall by the New York Rangers.

But, hypothetically, if he did slip, Kakko is probably one of two players in this draft class who could step onto an NHL roster today and make an immediate impact. He’s that good, and we saw it at the 2019 IIHF World Championship when he scored six goals to lead Finland to a gold medal. 

Kakko would give the Blackhawks a dynamic winger on the right side to go along with Patrick Kane, meaning they wouldn't have to worry about their top-six right wingers for many years to come. You shouldn't draft a winger this high unless he's as close to a sure-fire prospect as they come, and Kakko would qualify.

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Blackhawks mailbag: NHL Draft and how to improve penalty kill

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AP

Blackhawks mailbag: NHL Draft and how to improve penalty kill

Every Friday this offseason, Charlie Roumeliotis will look to answer your Blackhawks and hockey-related questions. Be sure to chime in using the hashtag #HawksMailbag on Twitter for a chance to have your question answered in the next edition. 

Turcotte or Byram? And for the one that you don’t pick up, how do you suggest fill the gap that the player would have? (Top 4 defenseman, future 1C, etc.)

The Blackhawks have exactly one week to decide who they want to take at No. 3 overall. We will save our predictions for the Hawks Talk Podcast on Monday. But let’s play out both scenarios:

If Bowen Byram is the pick, the Blackhawks would be adding a potential No. 1 defenseman to the pipeline and will have spent their last four first-rounders on blue liners (Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Boqvist and Henri Jokiharju). Not drafting a center in that spot would indicate that the Blackhawks are very comfortable with Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome as their 1-2 punch up the middle for years to come. 

If Alex Turcotte (or any other forward) is the pick, the Blackhawks will almost certainly look to upgrade their defensive group via free agency and explore the trade market. They’re putting their faith into the high-end defensemen prospects mentioned above, but they can’t all be broken in at once — and there also aren’t spots for all of them. The Blackhawks have to bridge the gap somehow.

If the Hawks pick Byram, do you think he steps right into the NHL next year and stays in?

This is an interesting situation. Byram tallied 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) in 67 games in his first season in the WHL, and set a record by becoming the first defenseman in league history to lead all players playoff scoring. And he did it at age 17. What else would he have to prove there?

Byram isn’t committed to play anywhere for the 2019-20, so the franchise that drafts him will likely have a big say in where that is. Could he step into the NHL right away? Probably. But that would be putting him into an extremely tough spot, and it would take a while for him to actually feel comfortable enough to make a big impact on a nightly basis. The Blackhawks want their young players to thrive, not survive.

One option could be doing something similiar to what the Vancouver Canucks did with Quinn Hughes — the No. 7 overall pick in 2018 — and Colorado Avalanche with Cale Makar — the No. 4 overall pick in 2017 who spent two years in college before coming to the NHL — by letting them play one more year in the NCAA, then bringing them over immediately after their seasons ended for the stretch run and, in Colorado's case, the playoffs. 

How do you think the Hawks will try to improve the penalty kill?

The Blackhawks will be (and have been) looking at everything when it comes to improving a penalty kill that finished tied for the worst percentage in 30 years: scheme, personnel, mentality, etc. There will certainly be an emphasis on that this summer, and they'll likely look to add players via free agency that could shore up that department.

It's unclear how the assistant coaching duties will be divided up, but Tomas Mitell and veteran Marc Crawford add fresh ideas to the table so that can't hurt. And having a full training camp and preseason to get things sorted out will be much easier than having to learn the new concepts on the fly like they did last season.

Jeremy Colliton said on the Hawks Talk Podcast that a major reason why he felt the Blackhawks couldn't get the penalty kill turned around is because there was some indecisiveness, schematically, when it came to the aggressiveness of pressuring the puck. So expect that to be something the Blackhawks put a heavy emphasis on when training camp starts.

"Major factor for us this year is that we were in between a lot," Colliton said. "To me, either go and you go 100 percent and together. Or you don't go at all. And I think we ended up in a lot of situations where we were halfway or we had one guy going or two guys going and then all of a sudden they had just enough time to make a play and then you're exposed in other areas of the ice. It's an adjustment for a lot of our guys to play more aggressive."

Assuming the offseason goes well, predictions for next season?

It’s hard to predict what may happen without seeing the moves the Blackhawks — and other teams in the Western Conference — make or don’t make but there’s no reason to think playoff hockey can’t return to Chicago next season. 

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews showed they’re still in their prime. Alex DeBrincat has emerged as a 40-goal scorer. Dylan Strome might be a point-per-game player in his first full season with the Blackhawks. Same with Erik Gustafsson from the back end. Special teams should improve, and so should the defense. Most importantly, players know what to expect from Colliton at this point and they'll have all the time in the world to get on the same page.

Now, it can’t be ignored that the Blackhawks found themselves in the playoff hunt till the end of the season because the second wild card spot bar wasn’t very high. Colorado finished scorching hot down the stretch and got in with 90 points, but for a while it looked like 87 would be enough. That won’t happen again next season. The Blackhawks have to take it upon themselves to get in because last season’s race was a fluke, not a trend.

When do the training camps and tournaments begin at Fifth Third Bank (MB Ice Arena) this summer?

The Blackhawks have yet to announce when training camp will begin, but the preseason schedule should be out shortly. And it usually starts a little less than a week before the first game, although this season's schedule could look different with the Blackhawks heading to Berlin on Sept. 29 for an exhibition game and Prague on Oct. 4 for the season opener.

Development camp, however, is already set and that will run from July 15-19 at Fifth Third Arena. It will be the first opportunity to view the Blackhawks' 2019 draft picks, including the No. 3 overall selection.

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