Richard Panik keeps it simple in Blackhawks debut


Richard Panik keeps it simple in Blackhawks debut

Richard Panik laced up the skates and put on a Blackhawks sweater for the first time earlier than expected.

Well, at least in a game.
The 24-year-old winger was acquired on Jan. 3 from Toronto in exchange for forward Jeremy Morin, but Panik's arrival was delayed more than a week due to visa issues.
Despite joining the team on Monday, head coach Joel Quenneville planned to insert Panik into the lineup against either Montreal or Panik's former team Toronto (or perhaps both), but had to make a quick change after Artem Anisimov, who participated in morning skate Tuesday, was listed as an unexpected scratch due to an illness he suffered an hour and a half before the game.
That opened the door for the Panik, who didn't know he'd be playing Tuesday night until shortly before puck drop.
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"I got a call at 6:15 to see if I can make it and I said I will try," Panik said following a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators which gave the Blackhawks their eighth straight win. "The traffic downtown was terrible. It took me like an hour to get here."
Welcome to Chicago.

In his debut, Panik skated at left wing on the third line with Phillip Danault and Andrew Desjardins, but didn't get much action.
He logged just 6:56 of ice time, partly due to 12 combined penalties committed by both teams. It seemed like every other shift the Blackhawks were either on the power play, where they went 0-for-4, or the penalty kill, where they went 7-for-8, and Panik admitted it was tough to find a rhythm because of it.
But he wouldn't use it as an excuse.
[MORE: Twice is nice: Andrew Shaw scores two as Blackhawks win eighth straight]
"Yeah it was hard, but you have to stay focused and when it's your turn, you have to be ready," he said.
Panik already has an early fan in Quenneville, who opted to go with the newly-acquired forward over Bryan Bickell, who was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.
"I didn't mind him. I thought he got better," Quenneville, who tied Al Arbour for second-most wins in NHL history with 782 following Tuesday's win, said of Panik. "I thought he made some really good plays, good hits, he's got some speed to his game. I liked a lot of things he did, so that was encouraging."
Panik appeared in 76 regular-season games with the Maple Leafs last season, where he scored 11 goals and six assists. He spent his first two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who drafted him in the second round (52nd overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft. But he found himself on the outside looking in when rosters were finalized at the beginning of the year, and he was disappointed he didn't make the cut.
Now in Chicago, the Slovakian will have a legitimate shot to remain on the NHL roster and is "excited" about the opportunity of joining a Stanley Cup contender. 
[RELATED: Wayne Gretzky comments on Blackhawks' success in 'difficult' era]
Panik's journey started Tuesday by not doing too much.
He drew a penalty in the third period. He made a nice defensive play to prevent an odd man rush one shift later. He registered a team-high four hits. Those are things that don't stick out on the stat sheet, but sometimes it's a good thing when you go unnoticed. That means you're simply doing your job.
Overall, it wasn't a bad debut for a guy who was expecting to watch the game from his hotel room.
"I wasn't ready for it," Panik said. "But as soon as I got here, I tried to warm up a little bit, hit the ice and tried to play simple."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Four takeaways: Alex DeBrincat salvages divisional game for Blackhawks in overtime on Duncan Keith’s special night

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on Saturday night:

1. Special night for Duncan Keith — and Brent Seabrook

The Blackhawks celebrated Keith's 1,000-game milestone in the perfect way. Every player wore a No. 2 jersey during warmups, his family was on the ice for the pregame ceremony, and Patrick Sharp made an appearance to present Keith with a silver stick. Seabrook was also paired with Keith among the starters, a great touch by Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff.

But it was also a historic day for Keith's partner and close friend Seabrook, who became the franchise leader in games played by a defenseman, surpassing Bob Murray who previously held that mark at 1,008. It's only fitting Keith and Seabrook shared that moment together.

"We've been riding shotgun together for our whole careers," Keith said. "I couldn't imagine my career, my 1,000 games without him and all the experiences and memories that I've had winning and even losing, and the fun times we've had off the ice. I owe a lot of my success, and I think the team does as well, to Brent and what he means to the team and what he brings to our friendship and as a teammate."

To put a bow on the game, Keith had a vintage Keith moment on the game-tying goal in the third period when he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone on his backhand, then fed Toews a dart leading him into the offensive zone that set up DeBrincat's goal. 

2. Alex DeBrincat's torrid start

The Blackhawks continued to get contributions from their top players such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom extended their point streaks to five games to open the season. But DeBrincat has propelled himself into that conversation as a top player on this team.

He had a multi-goal effort for the second straight game, upping his goal total on the season to a team-leading six. His overtime winner is the first of his NHL career in that fashion.

DeBrincat didn't score his sixth goal until Nov. 12 last season, which was the 18th game. And he still finished with 28. While it's hard to envision him continuing to score at more than a goal-per-game pace, it's not hard to see him continuing to be one of the best players on the ice and generating offense and scoring chances on a nightly basis.

"I think I'm getting pretty lucky right now," DeBrincat said. "I'm playing with [Toews] and [Dominik] Kahun, they're making great plays and getting me the puck. It's pretty easy when you have those guys as your linemates. Even on that last goal, [Erik Gustafsson] made a great pass backdoor to me. Pretty easy tap in."

3. Squandering another two-goal lead

The Blackhawks took a 2-0 lead for the third straight game. And they squandered it for the third straight game, in large part because they committed five straight penalties in the second and third periods.

It's no longer a blip at this point and is becoming an alarming trend, even though the Blackhawks have come back to force overtime in each of those three games. That will be something the Blackhawks work on all season long.

But Quenneville would have liked to have seen the Blackhawks keep their foot on the gas pedal and cash in on their opportunities to make it a 3-0 game.

"Score the third goal," he said. "I loved the way we were playing. We had a lot of good things going. Eventually they’re going to get chances, get opportunities. But we had some great chances to get it to three. It was one of those nights, every game is kind of different how the leads changed."

4. Brotherly love

For the first time in the NHL, the Schmaltz brothers finally got their chance to go up against each other at the highest level. There had been a handful of other opportunities in the past, but it never lined up for a variety of reasons. 

They didn't see much of each other while on the ice — they were on together for only 1:30 of the game — but Nick did commit a penalty that led to Jordan assisting on the Blues' first goal on a delayed call. 

The best battles between Jordan, who turned 25 on Oct. 8, and Nick, 22, came when they were kids.

"We had a little roller rink downstairs in our house growing up," Nick said. "It would be me vs. my sister (Kylie) and my brother. Those were probably the best battles. Someone would usually come up crying or high-stick or puck to the face or something like that. A lot of good memories. Looking back at it, it was awesome to have that and work on each other’s game and push each other to get better."