Five Things from Game 2: Keith gives Blackhawks shot in the arm

Five Things from Game 2: Keith gives Blackhawks shot in the arm

ST. LOUIS – A split: the Blackhawks made it clear after a close Game 1 that they wanted that heading back to Chicago. They achieved it, albeit in the most interesting ways.

But enough of the lead-in. You’re tired and we have to get up early in the morning to get back home. So before we pack it up for the night, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

1. A tale of two coach’s challenges. The Blues thought Andrew Shaw interfered with goaltender Brian Elliott on his power-play goal, but officials didn’t see it their way. The goal counted, and the Blackhawks had a critical lead. The Blackhawks also won an offside challenge earlier, taking Vladimir Tarasenko’s would-be goal away. The process isn’t perfect – many, including Quenneville earlier this season, have said they’re not sure what is/isn’t a goal with the goaltender interference challenge. But for this night, at least, the Blackhawks will take the ruling.

2. Duncan Keith’s impact. Everyone knew he’d make one in his first game back from suspension, and he couldn’t have scored his first goal of this postseason at a better time. His goal with 3.2 seconds remaining in the second period gave the Blackhawks life, and their first goal in this postseason. Keith played one tick under 31 minutes, recording four shots a goal and an assist. “He’s a horse back there, so useful in all areas and he’s a threat in a lot of different ways,” Quenneville said. “They scored a big goal for us. That broke the goose egg and we got a big lift off that.”

3. Another great night for the goaltenders. The game may have ended 3-2 but one was an empty-net goal and another was scored with one second remaining in regulation. Both Elliott and Corey Crawford were tremendous again on Friday night, keeping their teams in another closely contested and low-scoring game.

4. Getting the greasy goal. Shaw’s goal was looking like it would be the game winner until Kevin Shattenkirk’s late score gave Artemi Panarin’s empty netter that honor. But Shaw scored the type of goal the Blackhawks are going to need more of in this series: greasy and close on the net. Shaw was there when Keith scored his, too, setting a screen. As Jonathan Toews said of Shaw’s work, “the rest of us can take notes on that. Doesn’t matter who it is, we need guys in front of the net. We had a lot of point shots tonight. Even if they’re going wide, we can get sticks on them, bounces off the end wall. Something’s going to happen when you have guys there.”

5. It’s only going to get better. This series is already pretty intense and that level will grow as the stakes get higher. Listen, whether or not you like the Blues they’re a great foil for the Blackhawks. From hits to great penalty kills to better goaltending, this series has been tremendous through just two games. “Yeah it’s the playoff series already,” Shaw said. “You can feel the intensity and how everyone wants it and how hard everyone’s working. You expect that the rest of the series as well.”

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks


Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."

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


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

COLUMBUS — 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."