Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Panarin more at ease after preseason debut

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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.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”