Blackhawks get back on track with shutout win over Jets


Blackhawks get back on track with shutout win over Jets

By Darrin Bauming contributor

WINNIPEG — Two lightning-quick spurts of offense was more than enough to overpower the Jets on Friday night, as the Blackhawks cruised to a 4-0 win in Winnipeg to snap a four-game losing streak.

Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa scored just 26 seconds apart late in the second, before Andrew Ladd and Tomas Fleischmann added insult to injury in a span of 1:45 in the early stages of the third. Scott Darling turned away all 28 shots he faced for his first shutout of the season.

"It's all we all wanted tonight was a win. That's what we came to do and that's what we needed," said Darling, following his first consecutive game start of the season. "I felt good last game — didn't get the result I wanted, but it was good momentum moving forward. I felt good tonight."

The eventual game-winner came in the second as Kane dashed down the right wing through the neutral zone, out-skating former Blackhawk Marko Dano, before backhanding a roof job past Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec.

On the ensuing shift, Marian Hossa found his 12th of the season on his stick — a rebound off an Artem Anisimov shot that was blocked by Dustin Byfuglien to make it 2-0 at 17:22 of the second.

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

"We got a little break there, and a great play by (Kane)," said head coach Joel Quenneville of the game's opening goal. "A great finish. And then (Anisimov) makes a real nice play, turning it and patient, and a fortunate rebound.

"There was really nothing going on. Zero-zero, it looked like we were going in after two (periods), and then to score two at the end was good for us," Kane said. "It gives us some confidence especially playing with a lead. We hung in there. We didn't really make too many mistakes in the first part of the game and we capitalized on our chances."

Former Jets captain Ladd — acquired by the Blackhawks on Feb. 25 — tallied his 20th of the season to make it 3-0 early in the third. The 2010 Stanley Cup champion has now hit the 20-goal plateau five times in his 11-year career. Since re-joining the Blackhawks Ladd has three goals and two assists in the nine games.

"For him to come out and score a goal in a big win for our team I'm sure is a good feeling for him too," Kane said. "It was a good welcome home for him."

[MORE: Be careful in writing the Blackhawks off]

Kane's two-point night puts the NHL scoring leader at 92 points — 12 ahead of the next in line, Dallas' Jamie Benn, who climbed to 80 with a three-point effort on Thursday. Kane's 39th goal of the season proved to be the eventual game-winner — good for second in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin's 42.

Fleischmann's 13th of the season is his third in nine games since joining the Blackhawks.

Darling's victory is his seventh on the year (7-6-2) and his first win since Feb. 15 in Toronto. With No. 1 netminder Corey Crawford still listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury suffered earlier this week, 35-year-old Michael Leighton was recalled from AHL Rockford on Thursday to serve as Darling's backup.

Teuvo Teravainen, who skipped Friday's morning skate was listed as questionable by coach Joel Quenneville due to a lingering illness. But the 21-year-old took pre-game warmups and ended up playing 11:04 centering a line with Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise.

The Hawks — edging to within a single point of St. Louis' 91 points for second place in the Central Division — now return home for two more divisional matchups as they host Minnesota on Sunday and Dallas on Tuesday.

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

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."

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks


Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

Anthony Duclair knew what kind of opportunity he had in front of him when he was traded to the Blackhawks in January. The first day he stepped into the locker room, he admitted he was a little "star-struck."

But the marriage didn't last very long. 

After recording only two goals and eight assists in 23 games, the Blackhawks chose to move on from the restricted free agent by not extending a qualifying offer. Duclair later latched on with the Columbus Blue Jackets on a one-year, $650,000 "prove-it" deal.

"I wasn't surprised," Duclair said before Saturday's game against his former team. "I knew that I didn't perform as well as I did when I was there. I think I was there for only 20 games and didn't live up to the standards. As soon as I didn't hear anything from my agent I sort of got the message. But it was time to move on."

Duclair made no excuses for what went wrong in Chicago and accepted responsibility for not taking advantage of his opportunity, even though a leg injury sidelined him for the final month that prevented him from giving the Blackhawks a larger sample size.

"I just didn't perform well," he said. "It's going to be one of my regrets, to get that opportunity in Chicago and not perform in the way I did. It was something I had to look in the mirror this summer and move on obviously, but at the same time whenever a team comes next I think I'm going to take that opportunity and run away with it."

It's obvious that Duclair's got the potential to be an effective offensive player in the NHL. But we've only seen that in flashes, which is a large reason why it didn't work out in Chicago and why, entering his fifth season in the league, he still finds himself trying to play for a long-term contract.

"Just being more consistent," Duclair said. "Thats comes up a lot and my agents talks to a couple GMs around the league and it's something I'm trying to work on. It's not something you can work on in the summer, it's more preparing mentally and physically and that's what I've been trying to do."

So far, so good in Columbus.

Duclair has two goals and two assists through six games and is averaging 15:22 of ice time playing in a top-six role, on track to shatter his previous career high in that category (14:23) when he did so as a sophomore in 2015-16 with Arizona. He even made headlines on Thursday after scoring a highlight-reel goal against the Philadelphia Flyers, saying his "phone blew up quite a bit."

How he scored it is what stood out and his perspective after it is encouraging for his overall growth, as well.

"I've already put it behind me to be honest with you," Duclair said. "I'm just focused on Chicago now. I want to be consistent throughout every shift. Look at that goal, [it was] second and third efforts. That's what I want to bring to the table every shift, especially with the guys I'm playing right now. I just want to be having the puck whenever you can and being big on the forecheck."