King's Ransom: Toews helps Hawks sweep L.A.

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King's Ransom: Toews helps Hawks sweep L.A.

Monday, Jan. 3, 2011
Posted 10:37 PM Updated 11:58 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

LOS ANGELES Theres no doubt the Chicago Blackhawks felt the absence of captain Jonathan Toews when he missed the last two games with a right-shoulder injury.

They felt his return even more.

Toews scored the game-winning goal with five and a half minutes remaining in the third period and the Blackhawks beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 at the Staples Center on Monday night. The Blackhawks, who got off to a horrible start in this one, snapped a three-game losing streak.

Patrick Sharp scored twice, giving him 23 goals halfway through this season; he scored 25 all of last season.

For Toews, the game wasnt so much about his strong return as it was the much-needed two points the Blackhawks got. Still, the captain looked strong in his first game back, playing 19:41 and firing six shots.

And the winner wasnt even technically one of them. Toews was planted in front of the Kings net when defenseman Drew Doughtys clearing attempt hit off Toews and past goaltender Jonathan Quick with 5:27 remaining in regulation.

It was one of the luckiest goals Ive ever seen, Toews said. Thats the name of the game. If we can win that way Ill take it. Sometimes you need to get some bounces.

Defenseman Duncan Keith said Toews brings a lot to the table, and one of the biggest things is his grittiness and his ability to play down low, wear out their D. You can never have enough of that. Sure enough he gets the game-winner for being right in the paint.

The Blackhawks once again got off to a bad start. They were badly outshot in the opening minutes the Kings had eight before the Blackhawks had one in the first and were sloppy with the puck. Marian Hossas power-play goal near the end of the first helped offset the early messiness.

Then theres Sharp, who in a season full of Blackhawks ups and downs has been a steady offensive threat. His power-play one-timer off a Patrick Kane feed gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead in the second and his second goal came off a turnover he and Tomas Kopecky caused along the boards.

If we can keep the puck alive and give it to him on the power play, well see a lot of goals, Toews said of Sharp. Hes been great for us there and it doesnt matter who hes playing with.

The Blackhawks also needed to kill off some late penalties that they wanted to avoid before Toews came through with the winner.

The Blackhawks will take these two points. Theyll also take the health they now have with Toews back in the lineup.

Were finding ways to win the game. It was a pretty ugly 40 minutes but the power play kept us in it, Sharp said. We saw a lot of individual battles and our compete level was higher than in the past.

Praise for Byfuglien

Duncan Keiths noticed how well former Blackhawks teammate Dustin Byfuglien has done as a defenseman this season with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Byfuglien, who is averaging more than 22 minutes per game, leads all NHL defensemen in points (47) and goals (16). His play has earned him mention for Norris Trophy consideration. And reigning Norris winner Keith isnt surprised at that.

He can go wherever he wants and play however he wants to play. That experience on forward helped him, too. Now hes back on D and hes thinking like a forward a lot of times and playing defense, Keith said. Im not taking anything away from him. Hes been great. Hes a big reason why Atlanta is doing so well.
Sharp snub

Sharp wasnt on the NHL All-Star Ballot and may not be heading to Raleigh, N.C., despite putting up 23 goals already this season. Still, Sharp said it doesnt bother him.

Its something out of my control and its something I stopped thinking about a long time ago, he said. Im happy to end this losing streak and that were healthy in here.

Briefly

Fan voting for the NHL All-Star Game ended on Monday night, and it looks likely that Toews and Keith will be headed to the game later this month. Both were among the leading vote-getters in their respective categories throughout the voting. The All-Star game will be played Jan. 30.

Hossas goal snapped a 10-game goal-less drought, the longest of his career.

Forward Jake Dowell and defensemen Nick Boynton and John Scott were healthy scratches on Monday night.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

What to make of Blackhawks blockbuster deals

What to make of Blackhawks blockbuster deals

Before the clock struck noon on a day Chicago was hosting its first ever NHL Draft, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman sent shockwaves throughout the city and hockey world by completing a pair of blockbuster trades within an hour of each other.

The first was dealing three-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona, and the second involving Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad in a swap of talented wingers with Columbus.

This comes two days after the Blackhawks announced Marian Hossa will miss the 2017-18 campaign with a progressive skin disorder. That's three core players gone in the blink of an eye.

Who's ready for a new era in Chicago?

Rather than maximizing a championship window that was viewed as closing quickly, Bowman has elected to take a long-term approach and it might not be the worst idea.

There's no doubt the loss of Hjalmarsson, who remains one of the most underrated blue liners in the league, and Panarin, who finished in the top-10 in scoring among forwards in both of his first two NHL seasons, will sting.

But there's a good chance the Blackhawks wouldn't have been able to reward them with the pay raises they deserve after their contracts expire following the 2018-19 season, and that certainly played a huge role in the decision to head in a new direction.

In reacquiring Saad, the Blackhawks finally give Jonathan Toews that reliable left-winger they've desperately lacked since Saad was shipped out of town in 2015, providing balance throughout the top-six. Saad is also locked up for the next four years at a $6 million cap hit that will look better as time goes by.

For the last two years, the Blackhawks were known as a one-line scoring team thanks to the chemistry developed between Patrick Kane and Panarin.

The second-half emergence of Nick Schmaltz and familiarity Kane has developed with center Artem Anisimov has allowed Panarin to become expendable in their quest to solve their top-line woes. And that's not a bad consolation line, especially when you consider top prospect Alex DeBrincat could also be in the cards as early as this season.

On the back end, the Blackhawks receive a 24-year-old defenseman in Connor Murphy, who's also signed for the next four years at a $3.85 million cap hit, and carries a right-handed shot, something they've needed more of in the organization. While there will certainly be growing pains under Joel Quenneville, Murphy's ceiling is fairly high and gives the Blackhawks some speed coming out of their own zone.

In making both of these deals, the Blackhawks got younger in their attempt to keep up with a league that relies more on speed, addressing a few areas that Nashville exposed during their first-round sweep of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs.

And while they may have sacrificed two key players in the short-term, the Blackhawks executed a plan that should keep the perceived championship window open longer than expected.

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

Saad Day: Blackhawks deal Artemi Panarin for familiar face

When the Blackhawks found Artemi Panarin, they found a talent who was NHL ready from the start, who found instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and earned a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. It was also a tremendous panacea for a team that couldn’t pull off a deal to keep Brandon Saad, who was the power forward that fit in beautifully in the Blackhawks’ top six.

On Friday, the Blackhawks brought Saad back and dealt Panarin to do it.   

Saad returns to the Blackhawks, who also acquire goaltender Anton Forsberg, in exchange for Panarin and Tyler Motte. The Blackhawks also get the Blue Jackets’ fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft and the Columbus gets Chicago’s sixth-round pick from this weekend’s draft. Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the deal. The Blackhawks inherit Saad’s deal, which has four years remaining at a $6 million cap hit. Panarin was about to enter his current deal, which is two years with a $6 million cap hit. This is key for the immediate future; when Panarin’s latest deal is up, if he keeps up at his current pace, he’ll likely sign for a lot more.

[MORE: Blackhawks deal Hjalmarsson to Arizona]

The Blackhawks have missed Saad terribly since his departure. The team has struggled to find consistent line mates with Jonathan Toews, especially at that left-wing position. They did fairly well with Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik flanking Toews this season but it wasn’t as strong as the Saad-Toews combination. So it looks like the Blackhawks’ top line will be solidified again.

Now, what about the second line? As good as Toews and Saad’s chemistry was, Panarin’s and Kane’s was dynamite. The two had their respective skill, which they flashed often, and their ability to read each other was evident from the start. The Blackhawks’ second line was as consistent and steady the past two seasons as the top line was during Saad’s time here.

So, there are changes. The Blackhawks will absolutely miss what Panarin brings. But as far as bringing back a former Blackhawks player who could help in the present, getting the 24-year-old Saad back will be very beneficial.