Second line shines again as Blackhawks top Islanders


Second line shines again as Blackhawks top Islanders

The Blackhawks’ second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane has gotten the lion’s share of the publicity this early season, and for good reason.

The trio has been the steadiest and most productive combination, by far, for the Blackhawks. And on Saturday, that continued.

Panarin had a goal and two assists, as did Kane, and Trevor van Riemsdyk scored his first career NHL goal in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday night. The Blackhawks took the weekend back-to-back against the Islanders and have now won two of their first three games this season.

Scott Darling, in his first start of the season, stopped 28 of 29 shots for the victory. Brent Seabrook scored his first goal of the season, a 5-on-3 power-play goal, late in the game.

The Blackhawks have been trying to figure things out with their other three lines. A different player has been with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa each game – tonight it was Ryan Garbutt. Teuvo Teravainen was back centering the third line and was much more proactive. Last season’s fourth line of Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw was reunited tonight.

The one constant amid all the early season line shuffling, however, has been the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane. At one point, the three had possession in the Islanders’ zone for so long, it looked like they were on a power play. Oh, and they scored on that possession (Kane).

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“It’s something special,” van Riemsdyk said. “They’ve been playing so well together. Every time they’re on the ice they’ve got it in the offensive zone, just making stuff happen. When that’s going on, as a D-man, you’re just trying to make room for them and let them operate and do their thing.”

The Arty Line, as coach Joel Quenneville called the group after Saturday’s game, has been doing just that for three games now.

“They’ve been fun to watch,” Quenneville said. “Some special plays and special players. Their puck possession is what we try to instill and enforce, and these guys know how to protect it and instinctually know where each other is. I still think there’s growth in our game, whether it’s on the lines, our overall pace and our thought process. But I like how we’ve improved.”

The Blackhawks have steadily improved in their first three games. Gone on Saturday were the mistakes they made on Friday, those bad passes that nearly turned into Islanders goals. Darling was strong from the start, stopping what opportunities the Islanders did have. The Blackhawks’ offense did the rest, be it that second line or defensemen van Riemsdyk and Seabrook getting in on the scoring.

For van Riemsdyk, who thought he had his first career goal last season – it was, instead, credited to former teammate Kris Versteeg – Saturday’s game was worth the wait.

“It’s nice when it comes in a win the way it did,” he said. “The first one [last year,] I was unsure. This one feels a little better, knowing it was mine. So yeah, definitely a moment I’ll always remember.”

After some ups and downs in their first two contests, the Blackhawks found steadiness in their game on Saturday night. That second line has been steady from the start.

“There’s an infinite amount of skill on that line,” Darling said. “They had that one shift that put everyone in a daze just watching them pass the puck around, pass the puck around. They were great all night. It’s nice to have them on the team.”

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers


Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.