Blackhawks: Artemi Panarin adjusting to postseason game

Blackhawks: Artemi Panarin adjusting to postseason game

Last week, Artemi Panarin was asked to compare the KHL and NHL playoffs. He didn’t, because at that point he had no NHL postseason experience.

Now he has a glimpse of what the playoffs are on this side of the pond. It’s a small sample size, for sure, but Panarin now not only knows how fast the NHL playoff game is, but how physically taxing it can be. Still, so far he’s done all right.

Panarin was looking more like himself on Friday night, when the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 3-2 to even the first-round series at a game apiece. For Panarin, his adjustment to the NHL’s regular season came fairly fast. And after two games it looks like he’s transitioning to the playoffs pretty quickly, too.

“It's more physical games in the playoffs. It's more responsibility on the ice in playoff games,” Panarin said through Artem Anisimov, who interpreted for him in Saturday’s availability. “I tried to play more responsible in my own end without unnecessary risks in the games.”

While Panarin had more shots in Game 1 than in Game 2 – five on Wednesday, compared to two on Friday – he was more noticeable and played a more all-around game in the second outing. He also added what ended up being the game winner, an empty-net goal that looked like more of a clearing attempt than a shot on goal.

“I thought he did a great job last night; him and [Patrick Kane] had some great looks,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought he had some speed, he had the puck, he was dangerous. Sometimes those guys were willing to unload the puck without looking for a better play, and I think sometimes simplicity between the two of them in a series like this, with them keeping an eye on him pretty tightly, I think that can help him going along.”

Panarin played those regular-season games against the Blues but that was only going to prepare him so much for a playoff series with them. It was going to be more intense, it was definitely going to be more physical. Panarin now knows what the NHL postseason has to offer, and he’s adjusting fast.

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Jeremy Colliton has tried to dismiss any notion that forward lines in preseason games or practice groups in training camp give any indication as to what the Blackhawks might look like come October 4 in Prague. But with only two preseason games remaining – one of which could very well be the Rockford IceHogs against the Boston Bruins – it would be quite a shock to see the lines shuffled much before the team heads overseas.

“To me, it’s becoming more clear what our lineup is going to look like,” Colliton said after a 3-2 overtime win over an abbreviated Bruins squad on Saturday. “I think we’re getting what we want out of training camp here.”

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews look like a safe bet to once again start the season on the top line, with Alexander Nylander getting the first look on the left wing. On the second line, the combination of Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat look like they will have Andrew Shaw pestering opponents and opening up some ice for them.

Where the Blackhawks hope to see a major improvement is in the bottom six, where the team struggled to generate offense last season. Stan Bowman’s additions this summer seem to have the Blackhawks in much better position to not have to rely so heavily on their top two lines or top power play unit.

The third line looks fairly set with Brandon Saad on the left wing and Dominik Kubalik on the right wing. David Kampf looks like the favorite to center that line, but the Blackhawks did give Anton Wedin a look there against the Bruins, and he delivered a primary assist on Saad’s goal.

“I think he plays with a lot of energy and he’s a conscientious player. I think he works hard. Both sides of the puck, he’s got a little bit of skill. He’s a strong skater,” Colliton said of Wedin. “I thought he did well, I liked that line. I thought Saad was excellent.”

The fourth line of Drake Caggiula, Ryan Carpenter and Zack Smith earned high praise as well.

“I thought that Carpenter line with Smith and Caggiula was really good, really effective for us,” Kane said. “I think that’s something we might have been missing a little bit last year. Good to see them going, seems like that could be a fun line to watch.”

When the Blackhawks’ season ended this past April, Colliton said he wanted to rely less on Kane and use his star in a more “targeted” way. If the third and fourth lines can generate some scoring, or at the very least some offensive zone time, it could go a long way in getting the Blackhawks into a position to confidently roll four lines.

“We have so much more depth, definitely. There’s no question,” Colliton said. “To have the opportunity to move guys up at times, they should be fresh and ready to make a difference further up the lineup. We have competition, which I think is a good formula for us.”

So, while Colliton may try to play coy on forward lines and defense pairings, Kane has much less to hide.

“That was pretty much our lineup, or close to our lineup, so we’re trying to identify the way we want to play,” Kane said. “Obviously, I think we had some spurts tonight where we did that well and some other times where we struggled a little bit. It’s early in the season, we’re still trying to figure it out.”

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Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

USA Today

Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

After making a first wave of roster cuts to pare their roster down from 55 to 49, the Blackhawks announced a more significant second round Saturday afternoon.

Per the team, forwards Dylan Sikura, Matthew Highmore, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Alexandre Fortin, Reese Johnson, MacKenzie Entwistle, defensemen Nicolas Beaudin, Joni Tuulola, Lucas Carlsson and goaltender Matt Tomkins have all been assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The Blackhawks roster now consists of 33 players: 18 forwards, 11 defensemen and four goaltenders. 

The news comes just hours before the Blackhawks square off with the Bruins in the team's fourth game of the preseason Saturday night.

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