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.