Five Things: Blackhawks second line bringing consistency


Five Things: Blackhawks second line bringing consistency

NEW YORK – Not every game is going to be great in an 82-game season. There are going to be those nights when teams struggle with passes or chemistry, offense or defense.

But if you can still get points out of it, the glitches are easier to take. The Blackhawks were reminded of that on Friday night when they made some mistakes, had some good moments and came out with a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders. They won’t get much time to rest, as they host the Islanders back in Chicago tomorrow night. But before we get to that, let’s look at Five Things to take from their victory on Friday.

1. Looking for a left wing. Teuvo Teravainen got a chance on that top line, but it wasn’t looking so great through the first two games. Andrew Shaw played there for some of tonight’s game, but it didn’t click much either. So right now, it looks like coach Joel Quenneville is looking for the right left wing to put up there with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

2. The second line is just fine. The combination of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane looked consistent once again on Friday night. Panarin, who’s not afraid to shoot, ended up with four on goal. Kane scored twice — albeit one was on that overtime power play — and Anisimov netted his first of the season. For a team looking for consistency, that second line is supplying it.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Be careful with those passes. Nothing draws Quenneville’s ire like sloppy play, and the Blackhawks made a few critical turnovers on Friday night. One almost cost them late — Andrew Shaw threw a pass into the slot and John Tavares picked it up and shot, but Corey Crawford made the stop. The Blackhawks still have some bad habits they’d like to get out of their game. Those turnovers are right up there.

4. Their best are still their best. We’re guessing the Blackhawks let Hossa take as many practice days off as he wants if he brings bursts of speed like he did early in overtime. He could have gotten a penalty shot. Instead the Blackhawks got the power play, and Kane, Toews and Duncan Keith all factored in the game-winning goal.

5. Give it time. This is another reminder that the Blackhawks are going to be a bit of a work-in progress early this season. Yes, they acquired a lot of veteran players in their summer deals. But some of these guys are still very unfamiliar with the Blackhawks’ system, and it’ll take a bit. Deep breaths, folks.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?


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.”