Blackhawks

Five Things: Blackhawks power play does its job

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Five Things: Blackhawks power play does its job

The Blackhawks won’t be going for style points over these next few weeks. When you’re missing your top defenseman and vying for every point you can get in a competitive division, you’ll take them any way you can get them.

So it began on Thursday night, the first night the Blackhawks were without Duncan Keith. Their 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers was exactly what they needed and came thanks to the contributions of several. So before we call it a night, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory.

[MORE: Kane, Seabrook have three-point nights in Blackhawks win over Panthers]

1. Big night for Brent Seabrook. It seemed fitting that Keith’s longtime defensive partner would have a stellar evening. Seabrook played the minutes (a team-high 26) and logged the points (power-play goal and two assists) on Thursday night. It’s not unusual to see Seabrook step up in a critical situation; he’s done it in plenty of games, especially in the postseason. But every little bit helps right now, and he gave a lot against the Panthers.

2. TVR handles the extra responsibility well. Van Riemsdyk didn’t get any forewarning from coach Joel Quenneville that he’d play big minutes on Thursday night. But he did, and he did well. Van Riemsdyk logged 22 minutes, 34 seconds, a career high for him. He was there on the power play and penalty kill. Paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson, van Riemsdyk looked poised. “I think you just see how the game goes, practice with partner there and just play the game,” van Riemsdyk said. “Obviously games are going to take weird turns but you have to be ready, just like every other game, and be as prepared as you can be.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. The power play does its job. Well, sort of. The Blackhawks had eight of them on Thursday, including one with 2.2 seconds remaining in regulation. They only scored on two. But they kept solid possession on many of them, not allowing the Panthers to get much momentum even if they did kill off the Blackhawks’ threat.

4. Artem Anisimov scores again. The big center showed his power game in the first period when he barreled to the net and lifted a shot past Roberto Luongo, giving him his third goal of the season. Anisimov is filling that second-line center job well and is also giving the Blackhawks the net-front presence that they need. Marko Dano may be a future star for the Blackhawks, but Anisimov is getting it done right now.

5. Corey Crawford gets an assist. The Blackhawks goaltender got is first helper of the season, the secondary assist on Patrick Kane’s power-play goal in the third period. Seabrook figured Crawford was happy. “I think he had a smile underneath that birdcage he has on his head,” he said.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”