Five Things: Good work for Scott Darling vs. Blues


Five Things: Good work for Scott Darling vs. Blues

Well, the Blackhawks were close to possibly getting home ice in the first round. But that is gone now, gone in the wake of two Vladimir Tarasenko goals.

The Blackhawks squandered their 1-0 lead as Tarasenko led the St. Louis Blues to a 2-1 overtime victory on Thursday night. Now the Blackhawks can only play their regular-season finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets and watch to see what happens with the Blues and Dallas Stars in the fight for the Central Division title.

So let’s play the waiting game, folks. Until it all plays out, read Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ overtime loss to the Blues.

1. Frustrated but not devastated. The Blackhawks would’ve loved to get a victory out of this one and see how interesting things really could’ve gotten with the regular-season finales. But considering they were missing some ammo for yet another game (Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw, Artem Anisimov and Corey Crawford), they’ll lick their wounds and move on after this one. Yes, the Blackhawks have been missing a few guys for a few games now. It was bound to catch up with them as some point, wasn’t it? Thursday was that point.

2. Good work by Scott Darling. The backup goaltender has an unpredictable job. Coach Joel Quenneville says that guy always has to be ready because he never knows when he’ll be needed. Darling found that out these last few weeks, as he started 11 consecutive games after Crawford went down with an upper-body injury. He played pretty well, and was a big reason why the Blackhawks just about won on Thursday. Crawford is expected back on Saturday, but Darling did good work these past few weeks. “I felt really good tonight and the last few games,” Darling said. “It’s been a lot of fun to play.”

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3. The case for Richard Panik? Yes, we don’t know where the heck you fit the guy when the Blackhawks get healthy again. But Quenneville talks about tough decisions, and Panik is giving him one with how he’s played down the stretch. With Hossa hurt, Panik has looked good and comfortable with Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews. “I have to try and play my best every game and earn the spot for the playoffs,” he said. “I feel bad about a minus today, but I think as a line we had a good game. Had a couple chances. Too bad we didn’t score.”

4. Trevor van Riemsdyk makes a save or two. Van Riemsdyk has learned a lot in this full rookie season, and he’s played better in recent games. He was in the right place at the right time twice tonight, pushing Magnus Paajarvi’s potential goal out of the way late in regulation and then keeping the puck out of the net early in overtime. “He’s been good,” Quenneville said. “Good around the net, he really picks his spots as far as when to join off the attack, finding little pockets, be it off the rush or in zone. He anticipates the options there and (he’s) improving on his reads and coverage around the net.”

5. A quiet night for Bryan Bickell. It was another chance for Bickell who only logged nine minutes, 11 seconds of ice time. But Bickell didn’t make much of an impact in his time. Quenneville pronounced him, “OK.” But Quenneville said Bickell has to do something in the time he is on the ice. “(With) the role and job description, you have to find a way to make a contribution in the limited ice time you do get.”

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."