Blackhawks beat Sharks in one of season's best outings


Blackhawks beat Sharks in one of season's best outings

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Andrew Desjardins’ early season with the Blackhawks has been a bit frustrating.

He was recently put back into the lineup after being scratched for three consecutive games and, entering Wednesday’s game against his former tam, was still looking for his first point of the season.

His second trip back to San Jose proved to be a happy one.

Desjardins scored his first goal of the season and Patrick Kane extended his career-high point streak to 17 games as the Blackhawks beat the Sharks, 5-2, on Wednesday night.

Duncan Keith scored his third goal of the season and the 78th of his career, moving him past Pierre Pilote to fourth all-time among Blackhawks defensemen. Jonathan Toews added his eighth of the season. Andrew Shaw (empty net) and Brent Seabrook also scored. Corey Crawford stopped 27 of 29 shots in the victory.

Kane’s point streak is now a career-high 17 games. He’s one away from tying the mark set by a U.S.-born player (18 games held by Eddie Olczyk and Phil Kessel) and four away from tying the franchise mark, set by Bobby Hull (21 games in December 1971 and January 1972).

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Desjardins had been frustrated with the chances he has had this season, none of which resulted in goals or points. So his happiness — and perhaps his relief — was noticeable when he did score on Wednesday.

“I think you could tell in my reaction,” Desjardins said with a smile. “I’m not much for cellies. I just kind of yelled as loud as I could, I think. It felt good. It was a long time coming in a way, too, with the chances that I’ve had. It felt awesome.”

The Blackhawks were looking to build off their game in Vancouver, one in which they thought they did a lot right but lost. Wednesday’s game in San Jose, against a Sharks team that had won all six games on their recent road trip, was one of the Blackhawks’ best outings of the season.

“We just talked about that, maybe on the road it was our best complete game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We had a good game in Vancouver with nothing to show for it. Today we got rewarded. Good back-to-back efforts as far as playing the right way, doing a lot of good things.”

The Blackhawks got the desired start, with Seabrook and Toews goals putting them up 2-1 after one. Kane’s primary assist on Seabrook’s goal extended his point streak about nine minutes into the game. Kane was a lot happier with his game, as well as that of his line with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov, Wednesday night.

“It seemed like we didn’t pay too many shifts in our end as a line, and we had more control of the puck, too,” said Kane, who added he’s not thinking about the point streak as much as he is playing the right way. “You’re always looking to build off performances, I thought it was a step in the right direction.”

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Keith’s goal, which looked like a harmless shot from along the boards, put the Blackhawks up 3-1. Patrick Marleau made it interesting with his eighth goal of the season, which cut the Blackhawks’ lead to 3-2 with less than nine minutes remaining in regulation. But just 67 seconds later, Desjardins’ goal re-established the Blackhawks’ two-goal lead.

Desjardins wanted to capitalize on the chances he’s gotten. The Blackhawks wanted to build off the pre-Las Vegas portion of their Circus Trip. They all got what they were looking for on Wednesday.

“Our start was awesome,” Desjardins said. “I thought our puck-possession was good. Obviously they had a few flurries in the game, but I think that’s part of it, right? (You’re) not just gonna have the tide going your way the whole game. Yeah, I thought we played a pretty good all-around game, for sure.”

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks


Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a Marcus Kruger redirection goal. The next one was the dagger, a beautiful give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade


Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

COLUMBUS — The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."