Offense comes alive, but Blackhawks fall short in loss to Wild


Offense comes alive, but Blackhawks fall short in loss to Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. – For three games the Blackhawks struggled to score, although they only lost one of those games. Still, they were looking for more production.

On Friday they found their offense again. Problem is, the Minnesota Wild found more.

Jonathan Toews scored twice but the Nino Niederreiter got the game winner just 32 seconds into the third period as the Wild beat the Blackhawks 5-4 at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks, who had won four in a row before embarking on this quick road trip, have lost their last two.

Marian Hossa sustained a lower-body injury at some point in the second period and did not return for the third. His last shift came with 5:52 remaining in the second, when the Blackhawks’ attempted go-ahead goal was waved off. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa is day-to-day with the injury, which doesn’t sound serious.

[MORE: Five Things: Artem Anisimov flying under radar for Blackhawks]

The Wild also suffered a loss in forward Justin Fontaine, who didn’t return after a knee-to-knee collision with Andrew Desjardins. Minnesota coach Mike Yeo told reporters that Fontaine could be “week-to-week.” The Blackhawks’ fourth liner received a tripping penalty on the play. A source said the league will review the hit; it’s uncertain at this time if Desjardins receives any supplemental discipline.

Artem Anisimov scored his fourth goal of the season and Brent Seabrook added a power-play goal. Erik Gustafsson, playing in his first NHL career game, recorded an assist. Ryan Garbutt also had his first point with the Blackhawks, an assist on Toews’ second goal.

But for everything the Blackhawks got, they gave up too much on the other end. Minnesota scored two goals early in periods (18 seconds into the first and 32 seconds into the third) as well as a goal with 11 seconds remaining in the first. It was a frustrating night for a team that’s long prided itself on defense first.

“That’s how we measure ourselves. You win in this league with how well you check, how well you play without the puck,” Quenneville said. “The [last] two nights we’ve given up some goals; you’re not going to win in this league giving up those kind of goals. Rather easy. Two goals to start periods, big shifts and those two – you can look at other ones, but we have to be better last shifts of the period. Those are shifts you want to be on the ice.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Darling allowed five goals on 30 shots and took some of the blame.

“I’ve got to come up with a few more saves, especially when the boys score four goals for me and we’ve been struggling to score,” Darling said. “It’s unfortunate I couldn’t keep goals down.”

The Blackhawks pride themselves on team defense, however. Team-wise it wasn’t there on Friday night and Minnesota took advantage of the miscues. The Blackhawks will certainly take the uptick in their offense, but not at the expense of defensive letdowns.

“I think we have some work to do,” Brent Seabrook said. “We have to be better as a group, better as a team on both ends of the rink. That’s only going to get better with more games and more familiarity.”

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?


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.