Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Panarin more at ease after preseason debut

artemipanarinslide.png

Blackhawks: Panarin more at ease after preseason debut

Artemi Panarin settled the puck down near the red line, winning the keep-away game between he and a few Dallas Stars before passing to line mate Patrick Kane.

It was some nifty stick handling, and it left his Blackhawks teammates impressed.

“I mean, for being his first game, he looked really relaxed on theice. He looked comfortable with the puck,” Marian Hossa said. “You could see the dangle on that shift, go through the three guys and get the puck back. He’s so slick, and we’ll see a lot of this from him.”

It’s moves like that that made the 23-year-old Panarin so sought after last spring, when he eventually signed with the Blackhawks. And while an upper-body injury kept him out of preseason action until the finale on Saturday night, that one showing was a promising one.

Panarin had two assists and had great early chemistry with Kane and Artem Anisimov in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Stars on Saturday night. Panarin’s dress rehearsal gave him some confidence going into the regular season, which begins on Wednesday night against the New York Rangers.

“In the beginning it was a little tough. It took a couple of shifts to get into it. He didn’t touch the puck much in the beginning but then it got easier as he went along,” Viktor Tikhonov said for Panarin. “He has a little bit of an understanding. Getting ready for the [preseason] game, he didn’t know what to expect. Now he knows. Everything’s OK.”

[MORE: Patrick Sharp has emotional return to Chicago]

Kane said it was a heck of a debut.

“It was obviously a good first step for him,” he said of Panarin. “You can see by some of his moves out there he’s going to be an exciting player to watch. It’s a little tough communicating with him and talking to him – good thing we have Anisimov to translate everything between us. But it was a fun first night and hopefully we keep getting better.”

As coach Joel Quenneville has said, he and the Blackhawks had a pretty good idea what to expect from Panarin. The adjustment to the North American game, however, was still going to be a hurdle. Couple that with Panarin missing so much of training camp with his injury, and he was going to have to catch up fast. The one game is a small sample size, but it was nevertheless encouraging.

“He looks like he’s got some skill, got some ability,” Quenneville said after the game. “He has a terrific shot, real good instincts. I like that line. It could be fun to watch; the kid’s got a real nice gift of finding pucks and getting it off quickly.”

Panarin will probably have his growing pains this season. He’s adjusting a lot, from learning English to adapting to the United States and the North American hockey game to knowing when he’s been honored for Three Stars after a game – Panarin got that honor on Saturday night, and Brent Seabrook helped him on where to go to be recognized. But as starts go, Panarin’s off to a promising one. The Blackhawks like what they see early here from Panarin. Others likely will, too.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Hossa said. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.

Dagger...

Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.