Artemi Panarin reveled in the reorganization of the Blackhawks’ second line. The line had so much chemistry from the start and, in Panarin’s words — aka Viktor Tikhonov’s translated words — it was even better the second time around.
So what made it that much better?
“Because I scored two goals,” Tikhonov said for Panarin, who had a sheepish grin on his face.
Panarin had his go-around on the Blackhawks’ top line — at this point, pretty much every left wing and those who have been converted to that position have been on that line. But it’s with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane, especially Kane, with whom Panarin has thrived. And he was back with those two on Monday night, scoring two goals and adding an assist in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.
Coming off his two-goal night, the first goals he’s scored in nearly a month, Panarin was feeling better about his game again. Panarin, through Tikhonov, said he was “a little embarrassed” about how he played recently. Coach Joel Quenneville said Panarin was always pretty good, but there’s no doubt the young forward’s game got a boost from the second-line reunion.
“I thought he was much better,” Quenneville said. “I thought he was always fine but I still thought there was more pace to his game, and we saw that pace [Monday night].”
Panarin was put on the top line heading into the Blackhawks’ game against the Los Angeles Kings last Monday. It was done for two reasons: Panarin deserved a chance and Quenneville hoped the move would jolt the first line’s scoring. Entering that first game, Panarin said he’d have to adjust, make small changes, when playing with the captain.
“With Kane,” Tikhonov said for Panarin, “we have a little bit of a different style.”
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Well, Panarin on the top line didn’t have the desired affect, at least this time around. Panarin and Kane just click. Perhaps it’s because the two have similar games and that creativity.
“He’s a great kid, loves playing hockey and he loves trying to do well,” Kane said. “I know it was nice for him to get on the board again, score a few goals.”
Panarin was looking like a happy and relieved guy on Monday night. He was feeling like a champion after getting the team belt. He’s contributing again, which makes that second-line reunion that much better.
“There was a period when I was really, really trying hard to score. I kind of relaxed, trusted myself and started scoring,” Tikhonov said for Panarin. “It definitely feels good. I was waiting for this moment for a while.”