COLUMBUS, Ohio — With several guys missing from the lineup for various reasons, be it suspension or injury or rest, the Blackhawks still wanted to put their best foot forward in their regular-season finale vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But they weren’t going to lose sleep if they lost.
It start off well before the Blue Jackets came back to beat them in overtime. But this last regular-season hurrah was about the big picture and about getting a goaltender back, not the outcome of game No. 82. The Blackhawks now prep for the playoffs and the St. Louis Blues, who lost to Washington and will finish second in the Central Division.
So before we start writing those playoff preview stories, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 5-4 loss to the Blue Jackets.
1. Congratulations, Artemi Panarin. The 24-year-old earned those performance bonuses he’ll rake in, recording three more points, including his 30th goal of the season. Coach Joel Quenneville said there was “no chance” he was benching Panarin, who was on the cusp of collecting $2.575 million in bonuses entering game No. 82. Hey, if you give a guy incentive to record big numbers, you pay him when he reaches them. Good for him.
2. Patrick Kane will collect more hardware. It was looking likely for a while now, but Kane all but etched his name on the Art Ross Trophy on Saturday night. Kane had a goal and an assist against the Columbus Blue Jackets, capping a stellar regular season with career highs in goals (46), assists (60) and points (106). Oh, and Kane also has 251 goals for his career. The Blackhawks have had their ups and downs this season. Kane’s production, however, has been incredibly steady.
3. Corey Crawford’s return. Crawford had a busy first few minutes but came out of the first period unscathed. The second and third were tougher on him, and he ended up giving up five goals on the night. But after not playing for nearly a month there was bound to be some rust. That’s why the Blackhawks wanted his first game to be the regular-season finale instead of the playoff opener. Asked if he’ll be ready for Game 1 of the postseason, Crawford said, “Yeah, I’m ready.” On we go.
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4. What comes next? Now we turn our attention to the postseason and the St. Louis Blues, who the Blackhawks will play this coming week. No, we don’t know when yet, although it seems likely this series will start on Wednesday. These two are familiar with each other so expect a very passionate, very physical series. And one more thing…
5. Injured players should be ready to go. The Blackhawks will still be without Duncan Keith, who has one game remaining on his suspension. But Quenneville said Marian Hossa (lower body), Artem Anisimov and Andrew Shaw (both upper body) should be ready for Game 1, whenever that is. The Blackhawks weren’t going to move much in the Central Division in the last few remaining games. Getting healthy again was more important, and it looks like they will be.