Blackhawks

Five Things: Artem Anisimov shines in Blackhawks' win over Sabres

Five Things: Artem Anisimov shines in Blackhawks' win over Sabres

Some victories you just need. It seemed that was the case for the Blackhawks, who stemmed their slump with an overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.

We talked about the overall stuff in the game story. Since this will be a quick turnaround — another game here on Friday night, this one against the Carolina Hurricanes — let’s skip all the bravado and get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 4-3 over the Sabres.

1. Artem Anisimov shines. The second-line center came off his upper-body injury just after Christmas and hasn’t skipped much of a beat. When the Blackhawks needed a jolt on Thursday, he was there to provide it with goals late in the second and third periods, both tying the game at those times. Anisimov now leads the Blackhawks with 18 goals this season. As Artemi Panarin said (through Igor Alfimov), “I’m really happy for him having such a great season. It’s proof that if you work hard, you’ll get rewarded.”

2. Penalty kill struggles. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill has been very good as of late, but when needed on Thursday night, it failed. Kyle Okposo came through on one, and Jack Eichel scored on another early in the third. As our own Chris Kamka tweeted, the Blackhawks had gone 20 consecutive games without allowing multiple power-play goals before Thursday. The kill didn’t hurt the Blackhawks in the end, thanks to a late comeback, but it made things tougher on them.

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3. Marian Hossa is fine. You could see Hossa looked fully recovered from his upper-body at Wednesday’s practice, but confirmation in a game is always a bonus. Well the Blackhawks got that, as Hossa looked like he didn’t skip a beat in his first game since Dec. 20. Hossa was sharp, shooting and one of the Blackhawks’ best players out of the gate. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “So smart and he showed some good pace, speed and the puck was following him around in shifts. He’s so useful for us.”

4. Killing momentum quickly. The Blackhawks were set to go into second intermission down 2-1, despite outplaying the Sabres for most of this one. But thanks to Anisimov’s spin-and-shoot effort just 18 seconds after Okposo’s go-ahead goal, the Blackhawks went in with a 2-2 tie instead.

5. Getting to the net. The Blackhawks did a better job of that on Thursday — Anisimov’s second goal was Exhibit A of what can happen when you do. But Quenneville wants to see it on a more consistent basis. “I think we can still do a better job of trying to play net when you go to the net and distract the goalie. When you’re playing right in front of his eyes, don’t make it convenient for him to see clearly at the puck and that’s a work in progress. We’re getting there, and let’s do a better job once we’re there.”

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

Despite opening the Western Conference Final on the road, the Blackhawks overcame an early deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in Game 1 at HP Pavillon. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. An epic goaltending battle

The Blackhawks and Sharks ranked third and fourth, respectively, in goals per game going into the playoffs, so it wasn't a surprise to see two of the NHL's best offensive teams reach the Final Four.

The offensive firepower was on full display in Game 1, with the two teams combining for 85 shots on goal, 68 scoring chances and 22 high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. But it was the goaltending that stole the show.

Antti Niemi made a career-high 44 saves on 45 shots for a save percentage of .978. He also stopped all 13 high-danger chances. His counterpart Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 38 of 40 shots, including all nine high-danger chances, for a save percentage of .950. 

2. Escaping the special teams nightmare

The Blackhawks made Game 1 very difficult on themselves in the special teams department. They committed five minor penalties compared to the Sharks' zero, which is as lopsided a ratio as you'll ever see in the playoffs.

The Sharks capitalized on one of those five chances but credit the Blackhawks for hanging in on the other four. They played a full 60 minutes without a single man advantage and made sure it wasn't the reason they lost the game.

3. The legend of Dustin Byfuglien grows

You are going to see a lot of Byfuglien in this series, and he didn't waste any time.

In a 1-1 tie, a wide-open Big Buff pounded his stick on the ice, received a pass from Patrick Kane in the high slot and buried a slap shot past Nabokov with 6:45 left in regulation and it turned out to be the game-winner.

Byfuglien scored a goal in all four games and was credited with the game-winner in three of them. Game 1 was just the start.

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Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

The Blackhawks announced on Thursday that they have re-signed pending restricted free agent forward Matthew Highmore and goaltender Kevin Lankinen, and agreed to terms with forward prospects Evan Barratt and Andrei Altybarmakyan on entry-level contracts.

Highmore's deal runs for two years through the 2021-22 season and carries a $725,000 average annual value (AAV). Lankinen's deal is also for two years and runs through the 2021-22 campaign, and carries a $800,000 AAV.

Barratt's deal runs for three years through the 2022-23 season and carries an $870,000 AAV, while Altybarmakyan's is a two-year deal that runs through the 2021-22 campaign and carries a $817,500 AAV.

Highmore has six points (two goals, four assists) in 36 games with the Blackhawks this season and registered 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 21 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Lankinen went 8-10-2 with a 3.03 goals against average and .909 save percentage for Rockford before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on March 2.

Barratt, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the third round (No. 90 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, is the most notable signing. He registered a team-high 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in 34 games during his junior season at Penn State, and was also a Hobey Baker nominee in 2019 after setting career-highs in goals (16), assists (27) and points (43) as a sophomore.

Altybarmakyan was also taken in the third round (No. 70 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He registered career highs in goals (six), assists (11) and points (17) in 49 games this season for HK Sochi of the Kontinental Hockey League, and appeared in three games for HK Tambov of the VHL.

With the re-signing of Highmore and Lankinen, the Blackhawks now have nine pending restricted free agents, which most notably includes Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.