Blackhawks

Five Things: Corey Crawford shines again in Blackhawks win

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Five Things: Corey Crawford shines again in Blackhawks win

Corey Crawford was an observer for the Blackhawks’ game in Nashville on Thursday night and his synopsis was accurate.

“Can’t get worse than that,” he said.

On Friday, the Blackhawks had the right response from that debacle, taking a 2-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. The Blackhawks have now won three of their last four and remain in third place in the very competitive Central Division.

[MORE: Patrick Kane extends point streak as Blackhawks blank Jets]

But we’re not getting into big-picture stuff yet. So for now, let’s just look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ second victory this week over the Jets.

1. Patrick Kane makes it 25. The point streak continues for Kane, whose power-play goal extended it to 25 games. His streak ties Sidney Crosby for the longest since the 1992-93 season (Crosby’s came from November-December of 2010). Kane’s comfortable dealing with the extra attention he’s gotten with the streak. “I think going into every game there's going to be some type of attention on you,” he said. “If you worry about that too much, it gets to your head and can only do negative things to you. So just try to focus on getting the puck, making plays, create scoring chances, playing good in your own end when you're there and being confident out there too.”

2. Crawford does his part. Crawford last played Tuesday, when he stopped 36 of 37 shots in a victory over the Nashville Predators. He came back just as strong Friday with a 25-stop performance for his third shutout of the season. Crawford’s playing well again, allowing just two goals in his last three games, all victories. He saved his best for the third period, when the Jets had their best scoring opportunities. “He was great in the third,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Certainly he was solid, focused the first 40 [minutes] and did some good things. You could tell he was tracking the puck well and in the third he had to make some big stops, kept them off the board. Good for him.”

3. Paying the price. The Blackhawks’ other line of defense before Crawford was blocked shots. They recorded 23 on Friday, making Crawford’s job that much easier. Duncan Keith had a team-high six blocked shots and Trevor van Riemsdyk, who’s been more of a factor in this category, followed with five.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. The power play is working. Read that again, folks, your eyes are not deceiving you. The Blackhawks’ power play entered Friday’s game ranked sixth in the NHL and Jonathan Toews and Kane’s goals both came on the power play. It’s something we haven’t seen much these past few years but right now, the power play has been a big part of the Blackhawks’ offense.

5. Teuvo Teravainen no-look game working. On Tuesday it was a no-look goal against the Predators. On Friday his no-look pass to set up Kane’s power-play goal was a thing of beauty. Teravainen’s getting his confidence, and by that we mean his 2015 Stanley Cup Final confidence. That’s a good thing.

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

Anthony Duclair knew what kind of opportunity he had in front of him when he was traded to the Blackhawks in January. The first day he stepped into the locker room, he admitted he was a little "star-struck."

But the marriage didn't last very long. 

After recording only two goals and eight assists in 23 games, the Blackhawks chose to move on from the restricted free agent by not extending a qualifying offer. Duclair later latched on with the Columbus Blue Jackets on a one-year, $650,000 "prove-it" deal.

"I wasn't surprised," Duclair said before Saturday's game against his former team. "I knew that I didn't perform as well as I did when I was there. I think I was there for only 20 games and didn't live up to the standards. As soon as I didn't hear anything from my agent I sort of got the message. But it was time to move on."

Duclair made no excuses for what went wrong in Chicago and accepted responsibility for not taking advantage of his opportunity, even though a leg injury sidelined him for the final month that prevented him from giving the Blackhawks a larger sample size.

"I just didn't perform well," he said. "It's going to be one of my regrets, to get that opportunity in Chicago and not perform in the way I did. It was something I had to look in the mirror this summer and move on obviously, but at the same time whenever a team comes next I think I'm going to take that opportunity and run away with it."

It's obvious that Duclair's got the potential to be an effective offensive player in the NHL. But we've only seen that in flashes, which is a large reason why it didn't work out in Chicago and why, entering his fifth season in the league, he still finds himself trying to play for a long-term contract.

"Just being more consistent," Duclair said. "Thats comes up a lot and my agents talks to a couple GMs around the league and it's something I'm trying to work on. It's not something you can work on in the summer, it's more preparing mentally and physically and that's what I've been trying to do."

So far, so good in Columbus.

Duclair has two goals and two assists through six games and is averaging 15:22 of ice time playing in a top-six role, on track to shatter his previous career high in that category (14:23) when he did so as a sophomore in 2015-16 with Arizona. He even made headlines on Thursday after scoring a highlight-reel goal against the Philadelphia Flyers, saying his "phone blew up quite a bit."

How he scored it is what stood out and his perspective after it is encouraging for his overall growth, as well.

"I've already put it behind me to be honest with you," Duclair said. "I'm just focused on Chicago now. I want to be consistent throughout every shift. Look at that goal, [it was] second and third efforts. That's what I want to bring to the table every shift, especially with the guys I'm playing right now. I just want to be having the puck whenever you can and being big on the forecheck."