Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 7: Saad making a name for himself

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Five Things from Game 7: Saad making a name for himself

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Well, here we are again. Or maybe we should say, here the Blackhawks are again.

For all the concerns at the end of the regular season, when the goals and the victories were in short supply, the Blackhawks are heading to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in the past six seasons.

Call it determination. Call it hitting their stride at the right time. Regardless, the Blackhawks had to go through a tough Anaheim Ducks team to get there, and they made a statement with their 5-3 victory in Game 7 on Saturday night.

But enough of us prattling on here; we know you’re tired. So let’s get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Western Conference final triumph over the Ducks.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks cruise past Ducks, headed to Stanley Cup Final]

1. Jonathan Toews leads in every way possible. Toews just about led the Blackhawks to a Game 5 victory with his two late-regulation goals in that one. And he was why the Blackhawks got off to a tremendous start in Game 7, scoring the team’s first two goals. There’s plenty to say about Toews — we’ll save that for another story — but the postseason is about top players being leaders off, but especially on, the ice. The Blackhawks got that with Toews.

2. Brandon Saad is making a name for himself. And soon enough, Saad will be making some serious cash for himself, thanks in part to his postseason. Saad added another goal on Saturday, his sixth of the playoffs, and he drew a penalty with his speed on a breakaway short-handed attempt in the second period. Saad got his chance to be a top-line guy as a rookie; he’s just kept earning his time there since.

3. Duncan Keith is still OK. Another game, another (nearly) 28 minutes of ice time, another two assists and another great performance for Keith. About midway through this series we stopped asking how the minutes and physical play were affecting the Blackhawks’ top four defensemen; three of the four, fine, but it was obvious Keith was feeling no effects. Told he looked “spry” following the game Keith asked, “What does spry mean?” All kidding aside, he looks like he’s ready to keep logging those minutes and playing well through them.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get a Duncan Keith jersey right here]

4. Don’t forget about Brent Seabrook. The Ducks had their second goal (from Corey Perry) and momentum midway through the third period. Then the Blackhawks got a power play, and Seabrook, who comes up big this time of year, scored a power-play goal to restore a three-goal lead. Seabrook gets overshadowed by Keith a lot, but there’s no doubt he’s been a big contributor the past few postseasons, especially with critical goals.

5. Mental toughness remains. Whenever there’s a Game 7, you never know how it’s going to go. The Ducks were back home, where they had lost just one previous game this postseason — to the Blackhawks. They had lost just once in regulation this postseason — to the Blackhawks. Still, would this be the year the Ducks broke through? It wasn’t, mainly because the Blackhawks have that will at this time of year, know how to win and wasted no time in getting up on the Ducks in Game 7. Coach Joel Quenneville said, “Commend the guys’ perseverance, finding different ways through different challenges.”

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

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

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

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.