Five Things from Blackhawks-Predators: Net-front presence

Five Things from Blackhawks-Predators: Net-front presence

Finding another way to win, even with one of the more different hat tricks the Blackhawks have ever seen. You take ‘em how you can get ‘em, and Ryan Hartman and the Blackhawks felt that way, whether it was with his first career hat trick or their 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators.

Indeed, that hat trick made the score look more lopsided than it actually was, but the Blackhawks will take their third victory in a row.

Speaking of heating up, as we look to warmer temperatures – yes, 30 degrees sounds downright balmy right now – let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over the Predators.

1. One interesting, but effective, hat trick. With less than 1:15 remaining in regulation you wouldn’t have expected Ryan Hartman, with one goal at that point, to finish with a hat trick. But two empty-net goals later that’s what Hartman did. Hartman, who also had the reviewed game-winner, got his first empty-net goal with 1:14 remaining and the next with 31.6 seconds remaining. But hey, does it matter two were empty netters? As Patrick Kane said, “I think it’s one of those things where you get your first hat trick and then three or four days from now, no one’s going to even remember that he had two empty net.”

2. Getting to the net. We really can’t underestimate how valuable Artem Anisimov has been, even when he doesn’t score a goal. Exhibit A came in the first period, when Anisimov screened Pekka Rinne as Niklas Hjalmarsson’s fifth goal of the season got through. Richard Panik and Hartman got to the net late, and again the result was a goal. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “normally you need traffic and presence. It’s not easy to get there but that’s the reward, by getting to the front of the net.”

[RELATED: Ryan Hartman's hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Predators]

3. Getting the right response. Artemi Panarin had barely given the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead before the Nashville Predators tied it up in the first period. Part if it was a bad line change, and the Predators took advantage. While the Blackhawks had the right response following Hjalmarsson’s goal the Predators pushed – and just about scored – again following Hartman’s go-ahead goal in the third. Even without P.K. Subban and James Neal, the Predators were still dangerous.

4. Niklas Hjalmarsson’s career-high fifth goal. Sure, Hjalmarsson’s chief job out there is blocking shots, and he does that well. But on Sunday he added some offense, recording his fifth goal of the season. Any time the Blackhawks defensemen are engaged on the offensive side it usually leads to good things. Hjalmarsson will take it. “I just get more pucks through now, I guess. At the same time, it’s a little luck, too,” he said. “I probably could’ve had a couple more the past few seasons. Sometimes you get those lucky bounces. It’s been going in so far, so hopefully it can keep going.”

5. Panarin, anywhere near the left circle, does it again. OK, Panarin was slightly above his normal shooting area – “his backside might’ve been touching the boards,” Kane said. But it was the same result, as Panarin scored his 17th goal of the season. The kid just has an incredible shot and if he’s anywhere in the vicinity you’ve got to expect him to fire it. Again, it’s still stunning how much space he gets around there to take that shot.

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.