Secondary scoring getting the job done for Blackhawks


Secondary scoring getting the job done for Blackhawks

When you’re a star player for a team, the pressure to score is always going to be there. That pressure only intensifies as the postseason goes on: those who get the big bucks are expected to get the big goals.

But those stars are the ones opponents target defensively, and sometimes those opponents succeed in keeping the top players quiet. You need depth; you need the guys not drawing that spotlight and defensive matchup to score. And for the Blackhawks, those guys have come through during the Stanley Cup Final.

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The Tampa Bay Lighting have done a good job against the Blackhawks’ top players, from Jonathan Toews to Patrick Sharp, who each has just one goal each in this series, to Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, who have none. Several of those goals, instead, have come from the Blackhawks’ bottom-six forwards. Antoine Vermette has scored two game-winning goals in this series. Teuvo Teravainen also has two. Andrew Shaw has another.

Former Detroit/current Toronto head coach Mike Babcock said it several years ago: the top two lines can cancel each other out in the postseason. You need secondary scoring. The Blackhawks, thus far, have gotten it.

“It shows how much good depth we have here,” Hossa said. “You never know who is going to come through but you always have confidence right through the lineup.”

The Blackhawks’ third line, which has featured Vermette and Teravainen for some time now has been the most productive this series. Kris Versteeg joined those two for Game 5 and kept their impact high. Versteeg said the group doesn’t focus on providing offense but knows, in a tight defensive series, every bit helps.

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“We don’t really talk about that, but we talk about trying to be a solid line for the guys,” Versteeg said. “We’ve got so many players here who can play and put points on the board, but we wanted to be a line that could help and contribute, and fortunately tonight was one of those nights.”

Coach Joel Quenneville often says he doesn’t care who scores the goals. But depth is critical at this time of the postseason and, if your top stars are shut down, you need those goals from someone else. The Blackhawks have gotten them.

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.