Blackhawks: Panarin scores two more in victory over Penguins


Blackhawks: Panarin scores two more in victory over Penguins

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.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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.

[MORE: Toews joins Kane on All-Star team]

“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.”

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut


Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

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