Dec 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ryan Hartman (38) celebrates his goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at the United Center. The Hawks won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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It’s been a wonderful week to be a Chicago Blackhawks fan, as the ’Hawks gained eight out of a possible eight points to take the lead atop the NHL
What a better way to start the week than to beat the New York Rangers and move ahead of them in the standings? That’s right, the Chicago Blackhawks and Rangers played a very entertaining game last Tuesday night, and the best part is that the ’Hawks came out on top, 2-1.
But it only gets better. They went on to beat the New York Islanders on Thursday night (5-4), which put them in first place in the league with 44 points.
The weekend brought back-to-back games for the ’Hawks. The ’Hawks visited St. Louis on Saturday, and came away victorious 6-4 over their longtime rival. On Sunday, they returned home to the United Center after a three-game road trip. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for this one.
Yes, I stood out in the cold to get a little statue of an affable Russian man holding a loaf of bread. Call me crazy, but it sure was fun to see yet another win. The Chicago Blackhawks lit the lamp four times to the San Jose Sharks’ one. And with that, the Blackhawks had a perfect week and jumped to the top of the NHL with 48 points.
Here are five things to take away from this 10th week of the Chicago Blackhawks’ season.
Two goals were indirectly related to Hartman during the Islanders game on Thursday. When the ’Hawks were down 2-0, he resisted a fight after making a clean, hard hit. The ’Hawks scored on the ensuing powerplay.
Later in the game, he drew another penalty that resulted in a ’Hawks’ powerplay goal. He also picked up the apple on Marian Hossa’s goal.
But things didn’t stop there. Hartman had another excellent game against San Jose on Sunday. This time, he partnered up with his good buddy Hinostroza. With Artem Anisimov out due to an upper body injury, Hinostroza had an opportunity to center the second line next to Hartman and Hossa.
He took full advantage, winning a timely faceoff in the third period that Hartman was able to neatly deposit into the back of the net. Hinostroza also grabbed a goal of his own later in the period, making it his third goal of the season.
Although I’d have to say that Hinnie’s second goal of the season was his best. This was tallied on Saturday against the Blues. The young center got to the net and corralled a rebound off a Brent Seabrook shot. Just look at that elation!
Dec 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) celebrates his goal against the San Jose Sharks with his teammates during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
4. Keith finally got his goal
Poor Duncan Keith. The man has been working really hard, and actually has 21 assists to show for it. This is tied for fifth in the league. But he didn’t have a single goal until last night.
Keith finally broke through and got his goal in the first period against the Sharks. His one-timer from the blue line brought the ’Hawks to a 1-1 tie, and got things rolling for the rest of the game. With his first goal of the season behind him, something tells me this won’t be his last.
3. The Kempny condition
It’s been a bone of contention for many Chicago Blackhawks fans that Michal Kempny has been a healthy scratch quite frequently as of late. He did suit up on Thursday against the Islanders, but was a minus-3 and did not look good. As a matter of fact, he didn’t play at all in the third period, and he wasn’t injured.
So why does Trevor van Riemsdyk continuously get the nod instead of Kempny? There could be a number of reasons, but the simplest one is that Kempny’s not a right-handed shot. There are too many defensemen on the team that play the left side.
Only Brent Seabrook, Michal Rozsival and van Riemsdyk naturally play on the right side. Playing Kempny on the left essentially forces Brian Campbell to play on his off-side, putting him at a disadvantage. But playing TVR (or Rozsival) allows Campbell to be on his natural side. Satchel Price from Second City Hockey discusses this in further detail here.
Besides, TVR has seen a bit of a resurgence since coming back from injury. He scored a goal on Tuesday, and played a solid game on Thursday, with just under 20 minutes of ice time. Over the weekend, TVR earned an assist in each game.
Dec 15, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) makes a save against the New York Islanders during the second period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
2. Darling does it
Scott Darling has taken on a heavy load while Corey Crawford has been recovering from his appendectomy. It looked like this was taking a toll on Darls earlier in the week. He relinquished four goals against the Islanders on Thursday, and another four goals against the Blues on Saturday. There was some talk that Lars Johansson would have replaced him in the third period against the Blues, but Coach Q was hesitant that he wasn’t ready to step into such a close game against such a big rival.
Again, there was a big question mark as to whether Darling would start on Sunday, after playing the night before. But start he did, and he tallied 33 saves to help bring home the win against the San Jose Sharks. He only let in one goal.
When asked how he convinced Coach Q of this after the game, Darling responded, “I don’t really try and twist Joel’s arm in any way at all. I just told him I wanted to play and that was that.”
Darling has now been in net for the last nine games, six of them being wins. But whether he likes it or not, Darls will probably get a break soon. The Blackhawks reported after Sunday’s game that Crawford has been skating, and could play again before Christmas.
Dec 15, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders with Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) during the first period at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
1. Panarin Power
It was appropriate that it was Panarin bobblehead night last night at the United Center. Artemi Panarin has consistently been contributing in a big way. He’s becoming a very important piece of the puzzle.
He notched two assists on Sunday, and tallied a goal and two assists on Saturday versus the St. Louis Blues. Last Thursday against the New York Islanders, he had two goals and one assist. Tuesday saw him put up two assists, and last Sunday against the Stars he had a goal.
This now gives Panarin 11 points in the last five games. He leads the team with 34 points in 34 games, which is also tied for third in the NHL. His 10 points in the four games last week earned him the NHL’s No. 1 Star.
On a side note, Patrick Kane is trying to keep up. Before the ’Hawks played the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, Kane hadn’t scored a goal in nine games. But he finally potted one, and added the empty netter on Sunday against the Sharks. He now has 10 goals on the season, to go along with a not-too-shabby 22 assists. This gives him 32 points, which is second on the team behind Panarin.
The Chicago Blackhawks are now 22-8-4, which is good for 48 points and first place in the league. They’re 13-2-3 on home ice, and they host their next three games at the United Center. They have started to heat up offensively, having scored 14 goals in the last three games. Like I was saying, it’s a great time to be a Chicago Blackhawks fan!