Blackhawks

Artemi Panarin’s rep: 'He’ll forever cherish his time in Chicago'

Artemi Panarin’s rep: 'He’ll forever cherish his time in Chicago'

A little more than two years ago Artemi Panarin had many NHL teams vying for his services, the Blackhawks winning the bidding war and signing him. On Friday the Panarin-Blackhawks union was over, the 25-year-old traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But according to his agent, if Panarin had it to do all over again, he still would have signed with the Blackhawks.

Dan Milstein, who represents Panarin, said the Russian left wing is forever grateful to the Blackhawks for the past two seasons in which he put up stellar numbers in consecutive regular seasons.

“The experience, playing on the same line with [Artem] Anisimov and [Patrick] Kane, having coach [Joel] Quenneville and many other members of the organization help him along the way, providing the translation services and being there for him, the entire process made his transition to North America extremely easy,” Milstein said. “He’ll forever cherish his time in Chicago.”

Milstein was in Chicago on Friday morning when he got the call from Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman on the trade – Bowman told the media on Friday that the deal “came together pretty quickly.” Milstein immediately called Panarin, who was about to get on a plane for a fishing trip in Russia.

“Initially he was shocked. But as the day went on we kept in touch and he understands,” Milstein said. “He said, ‘I understand it’s a business. I accept the challenge.’ His last words were, ‘I accept the challenge.’”

The deal, which sent Panarin and his upcoming two-year deal worth $6 million per season to Columbus, brought Brandon Saad back to Chicago. Saad will likely bring stability to the Blackhawks’ top line, which has missed his presence since he was traded in the summer of 2015. Who Kane’s left wing will be this season remains to be seen. Quenneville said on Saturday that Nick Schmaltz will probably get a good chance there; he played with Kane when Anisimov was hurt last season.

Still, the chemistry between Kane and Panarin will be tough to match. Milstein said he saw Kane briefly at the NHL Draft on Friday night, and that he told Milstein, “just let [Panarin] know that I love him.”

Panarin, like most of the Blackhawks, had a very quiet postseason. After recording seven points against the St. Louis Blues, Panarin had just one assist in four games against the Nashville Predators. Not long after the playoffs Panarin was interviewed in Russian. One of the quotes, translated into English, read, “I was not in the best shape and didn’t have enough strength” for the playoffs. Milstein didn’t believe that was an accurate translation.

“If you know Panarin, in his native tongue he’s very funny. If you use a translator, sometimes it takes things out of context. But I don’t believe that’s what he meant,” Milstein said. “He put a good [regular] season together, a fair season, but the performance in the playoffs, obviously, he was disappointed. He was frustrated with his performance.”

Milstein said Panarin will probably head to Columbus in a few weeks; he’s currently waiting on visa issues. Panarin’s time in Chicago was shorter than most thought it would be but his agent said he’s ready for the next challenge.

“Artemi is looking forward to coming here,” said Milstein, who was in Columbus on Monday. “This will be a good opportunity to shine.”

Is Blackhawks' Round One strategy playing into Vegas Golden Knights' hands?

Is Blackhawks' Round One strategy playing into Vegas Golden Knights' hands?

The Blackhawks knew they'd have to elevate their game for Round One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights, who won the No. 1 seed from the West for the first round in the round robin.

The Hawks upset of the West's No. 5 seeded Oilers and their top-ranked power play and second-place penalty kill during the regular season — not to mention Leon Draisailt and Connor McDavid — was no small feat.

Chicago head coach Jeremy Colliton and the Blackhawks know they're facing a more complete team — capable of rolling four lines — in the Golden Knights, as illustrated by Tuesday's 4-1 Game 1 decision over the Hawks.

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Instead of focusing on just shutting down two players like they did against Edmonton, the Blackhawks are tasked with shutting down every line against Vegas. 

The Hawks' tight-checking strategy may have played right into the Knights' hands in Game 1 as Chicago's forwards were so focused on their defensive responsibilities that they failed to generate much offense, recording a measly 20 shots on goal Tuesday night.

Related: Robin Lehner got the best of 'reverse psychology' with Blackhawks familiarity in Game 1

"I think we did a better job controlling the puck in the offensive zone in the second period and on," Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith said after Tuesday's game. "They're a rush team and we don't want to get into a track meet with them so once we can get them to stop in the D zone, we control the game a little bit more."

If Vegas is scared of Chicago's rush, the Hawks need to use it more. They can avoid a track meet, but how about a few races?

Colliton, 35, deserves beyond the benefit of the doubt in how he had the Blackhawks prepared for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and in how they utilized a system that beat a good team as No. 12 to No. 5 underdogs at the opposition's home ice for his first postseason win in his second year as an NHL head coach. But, he needs to find a way to encourage the Hawks to play loose enough while limiting the Knights' chances in Game 2 that they can generate some of their own.

"We expect a tight series, we expect it to be a grind, we expect to face adversity," Colliton said after the loss in Game 1. "We did that, and we were right there. But we're going to have to find a way to win some of these games (and) we got to put ourselves in that position as well. Again, we just have to stick with it and they did it a little bit longer than us, and that's the message."

To Colliton's credit, Corey Crawford gave up two soft goals that he'd normally have, so the Hawks may have been able to squeak out a victory with their tight, conservative style on Tuesday.

"They’re a good team, they’re going to make you work for what you get," Colliton said. "But if you stick with it long enough and put pressure on the puck, we forced our turnovers, we got our chances. I thought we could’ve created even more if we were a little cleaner early on, especially in the first period. I thought there was more there for us. So we’ve just got to believe in that."

A way the Hawks can generate more in Game 2 on Thursday is by the forwards getting the puck to the D in the offensive zone, creating traffic in front of the net and getting shots off from the point, which played a big role in eliminating the Oilers in the play-in series.

"Yeah, we seemed to have a bit of success there last series. For whatever reason first game here it didn't happen as much," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said following Game 1. "Part of it is just keeping the game simple. Being able to get it low to high and then get the shot through. But every game's different."

Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad, who made a beautiful play in Vegas' zone to steal the puck and feed David Kampf for the lone Hawks' goal in Game 1, knows there's more the Hawks can do to score some goals against the Knights.

"We had a lot of one-and-dones," Saad said after Tuesday's loss. "The biggest thing is getting out of our zone clean, playing hockey in their end. We had some shifts too where we pinned them in, we didn't get clean pucks to the net... For us, we just want to get as quick out of our zone as possible. When we get stuck in there, we're not going to get anything there."

The good and bad of Blackhawks' Game 1 loss to Vegas Golden Knights

The good and bad of Blackhawks' Game 1 loss to Vegas Golden Knights

As the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks knew going into their first-round matchup against the No. 1 seed Vegas Golden Knights that it would be an uphill battle. 

The Blackhawks dropped Game 1 on Tuesday night in a tight-checking game, which wasn’t what we’re used to seeing when these two teams collide. The final score (4-1) and shots on goal (34-20) made it seem like a more lopsided effort than it actually was, but that's not to say the Blackhawks were the better team.

The Golden Knights deserved to win, but there were some positives for the Blackhawks. There were also negatives.

Let's break down the good and bad from Game 1:

Good: Three of the Blackhawks four lines outchanced the Golden Knights during 5-on-5 action for a combined scoring chance differential of plus-5, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Bad: The one line that didn’t was Kirby Dach, Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, which got outchanced 10-3.

Good: The Blackhawks gave up seven high-danger chances at even strength against a Vegas team that generated 10.8 per game during the regular season.

Bad: The Blackhawks had only four high-danger chances of their own, which was their third-fewest total of the season.

Good: The Golden Knights, who rank No. 2 in even-strength shot attempts from the slot off the rush with 7.53, were held to only four rush chances, according to Sportlogiq.

Bad: The Blackhawks, who rank No. 3 in even-strength shot attempts from the slot off the rush with 7.40, had only three rush chances of their own. 

Good: The Golden Knights had 6:26 of offensive zone possession time. For reference, the Oilers had 8:49 against the Blackhawks in Game 4.

Bad: The Blackhawks were held to only 5:25 of offensive zone possession time.

Good: The Blackhawks generated nine scoring chances and four high-danger chances during 4:06 of power-play time.

Bad: Only four of their 12 shot attempts hit the net, and none of them went in.

Good: The Blackhawks lost but hung with the Golden Knights for the majority of the game — two of the four goals allowed by Corey Crawford were ones he normally stops.

Bad: The Golden Knights won despite not playing their best.

The conclusion is, the Blackhawks didn't play bad enough to lose. But they didn't play well enough to win, either. The Golden Knights simply stuck to their defensive structure and never gave the Blackhawks an opportunity to take control of the game.

If the Blackhawks want to make this a competitive series, they have to go out and take it. Because this Golden Knights team isn't going to make the same defensive mistakes that the Edmonton Oilers made in the qualifying round that allowed the Blackhawks to make them pay.

"We expect a tight series, we expect it to be a grind, we expect to face adversity," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We did that and we were right there. But we’re going have to find way to win some of these games, but we’re going to have to put ourselves in that position as well. We just have to stick with it; they did it a little bit longer than us. That’s the message."

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