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.”