Blackhawks

Five Things from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Special teams surge

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Special teams surge

The Blackhawks wanted to be playing better as they neared the end of the regular season.

And while some of their games have been interesting, sometimes too close for comfort, the Blackhawks are stringing together some victories and gaining some much-needed confidence. They continued that trend on Tuesday night, beating the Arizona Coyotes 6-2 for their third consecutive victory and fifth in their last six games.

So before we head into an off day, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Coyotes.

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1. The captain is heating up. Jonathan Toews had a short-handed goal and an assist in Tuesday night’s game. That’s five consecutive games in which Toews has scored at least a point, and his goal in this one gave him 250 for his NHL career. Toews said there were times this season he wasn’t happy with his game — “it was, at times, frustrating,” he said on Tuesday morning. We’re guessing the frustration is waning that much more with each passing game.

2. Is the power play waking up again? Could be, if the last two games are any evidence. The Blackhawks scored three power-play goals — including two on Antoine Vermette’s five-minute boarding penalty — giving them five in their last two games. The Blackhawks were more in shooting mode in recent advantages, and it’s paying off. Everything has its ebbs and flows in a season. But the Blackhawks’ power play seems to be surging at the right time.3.

3. Artemi Panarin keeps racking up the points. It wasn’t long ago that the Blackhawks probably thought they’d dodge those salary bonuses with the rookie. Well, they probably won’t because Panarin is heating up again. With his two assists on Tuesday night, Panarin now has 10 points in his last three games. The Blackhawks figured they had a good thing when they signed Panarin, but they’ll probably pay for it.

4. The penalty kill keeps improving. This may be more important than the power play, because this was a serious problem for several weeks. The Blackhawks killed off six Coyotes power plays on Tuesday. Since Marcus Kruger returned, the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has gone 17-for-17. Coincidence? Who knows? Kruger was actually in the box for two of those kills, including the one that Toews turned into a short-handed goal. But there’s no doubt having one more good penalty killer back in the lineup has been beneficial.

[MORE: Blackhawks bury Coyotes with second straight six-goal game]

5. Winning despite missing bodies. Yes, the Blackhawks have missed Corey Crawford for several weeks now, and their record was up-and-down when he first went down. But in recent games in which they’ve been without Duncan Keith (suspension), Andrew Shaw (upper body) and Marian Hossa (lower body), the Blackhawks have found ways to win. The Blackhawks have usually done well when they’ve had to band together in the wake of injuries. They’re doing that right now. 

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

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USA TODAY

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

NHL Draft Profile: F Filip Zadina

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Filip Zadina

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 195 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Marian Hossa

Fit for Blackhawks:

You know who the Blackhawks missed last year? Hossa. It's not mentioned enough when analyzing what went wrong in 2017-18. 

Well, Zadina is a player who's got the upside of Hossa and is one of a few prospects who could potentially crack the NHL lineup this upcoming season. The scouting report above is all you need to know about Zadina's style of play, and Blackhawks fans surely nodded through the whole thing because it's exactly what the team is looking for.

However, this is a case where the Blackhawks would have to trade up to snag him if they want him, because there's little chance he'll be on the board when the eighth pick rolls around. And it's probably unlikely they would do so, given what it may take to move up a few spots.