Blackhawks close out homestand with win over struggling Stars

Blackhawks close out homestand with win over struggling Stars

When you’re missing key guys from your lineup, sometimes you have to simplify.

You have to be smart. You have to take advantage of what opportunities you do get and you have to quell your opponent’s chances as much as possible. The Blackhawks did a pretty good job in all of those categories on Sunday night.

Marian Hossa scored his 15th goal of the season and Scott Darling stopped 23 of 24 as the Blackhawks beat the Dallas Stars 3-1. The Blackhawks now have 40 points, which keeps them atop the Western Conference standings.

Artem Anisimov scored his 12th goal of the season and Artemi Panarin added his 11th, a power-play goal in the third. Ryan Hartman had an assist – he probably should have had a second – and played a strong all-around game.

The Blackhawks played their ninth game without captain Jonathan Toews, who skated on Sunday and hopes to be on the team’s upcoming trip to New York. They’re now 5-2-2 in his absence. Brent Seabrook missed his second consecutive game and Corey Crawford has now missed five in a row.

With that many top guys out, the Blackhawks have needed everyone to do a little more. On Sunday, everyone did.

“Overall our whole team game, I really liked tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We did some good things technically and defensively. We managed the puck a little better and scored some timely goals as well. We talk about everybody and everybody contributed in a lot of ways. Hoss continues to score some big and timely goals for us. But I don’t think we gave up much tonight and that’s why we’ve been having some success here.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

No, the Blackhawks didn’t give up much quality to the Stars, whose lone goal came from Devin Shore in the second period. Sure, the Stars have been decimated by injuries but they still have their threats, from Jamie Benn to Jason Spezza to Tyler Seguin. The Blackhawks held them in check, however, and Darling stopped whatever did get through.

“That's a good, high-powered hockey team over there and we did a really good job defensively tonight,” Darling said. “[They] helped me out big time.”

The Blackhawks got the necessary offense, too. Hossa came through once again, tying the game just 52 seconds after Shore had given the Stars the lead in the second period.

“Well, what can I say? I tried to shoot when I had a good opportunity,” said Hossa, who was denied his 15th due to an offside call on Friday. “Tonight, out of nothing, I tried to release it and I got one of those lucky ones.”

Panarin’s was a big one, a scorcher that gave the Blackhawks a two-goal cushion in the third period. After that the defense kept the Stars from making any serious threats.

The Blackhawks may be on the mend, as Toews and Seabrook could be heading to New York. But in their absence the Blackhawks have still kept gaining points. They’re also gaining confidence in their team game, which is a good sign no matter who’s in or out of the lineup.

“Well, this was definitely a good test of what the team can do without key players,” Hossa said “It’s hard to replace guys like that, all three of them, but I think with the little things, guys doing baby steps, those guys get opportunities to play more and they’re taking advantage of it. That’s good for the future, when everybody’s going to be back.”

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?


Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.