The goals came in bunches again for Artemi Panarin, two more on Wednesday night to go with the two he scored on Tuesday, all against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So what’s got him going lately?
“He stopped thinking about goals and he start to score goals,” Stan Stiopkin translated for Panarin.
Obviously the shoot-first-think-later approach is working.
Panarin scored two goals, including the game-winner, for the second consecutive night as the Blackhawks beat the Penguins, 3-1, at the United Center. The Blackhawks have now won a season-best five straight and remain in second place in the Central Division with 54 points.
Scott Darling stopped 17 of 18 shots for the victory. Teuvo Teravainen added an empty-net goal with 66 seconds remaining in regulation.
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For Panarin the transition from Russia to America, especially on the ice, has been great. The forward had a great final season with SKA St. Petersburg, which won the Gagarin Cup, and hoped to have as successful a start here as he did a finish there. So far, he’s gotten it.
“You knew he was a special player right from the outset,” Patrick Kane said. “Great puck control, great shot, very focused on hockey and being successful, too.”
Marc-Andre Fleury was stellar for the Penguins, stopping 34 of 36 shots. The only guy to beat him on Wednesday was Panarin, who painted shots twice for his 14th and 15th goals of the season. Coach Joel Quenneville agreed that Panarin is best served by his instincts and not overthinking.
“When he thinks shot, he’s got a great shot. Last night was a good illustration of that and tonight continued on,” Quenneville said. “Both [winning] goals, last night and tonight, were almost the same shot. Quick release and he has some pace to it. But I don’t think he needs to think that Kaner always has to touch it first and Kaner has to think that Bread Man doesn’t have to touch it first. All of a sudden, the quality of their chances will be enhanced.”
Panarin likes what he’s doing in the goal-scoring department but he said he’s not happy with the rest of his game. When asked what he needs to work on, he said via Stiopkin, “everything.” Quenneville wasn’t quite as critical.
“We’re pleased with him in all areas of his game. He likes the puck and I think he can do a lot of things with it. We’re trying to work with him without it, coming back into our own end, [being] positionally aware in our own zone, how to defend rushes and coming into our end,” Quenneville said “He’s progressing in that area. But he likes the puck and there’s nothing wrong with that. We want to make sure there’s a time and place when you have to make one more play, and I like how he’s developing the shot-first mentality. It’s been very positive.”
Panarin’s first 42 games have been very positive, indeed. The overall game will keep improving. As far as his shots, the less he thinks about it, the better it seems to be.
“A couple big games by him, a couple huge goals; I'm sure you'll see more of that as his career goes on here with the Blackhawks and he'll get more accommodated here in the United States and I think that he'll become a better player,” Kane said. “The sky's the limit with that kid.”