Quick Hits: Blackhawks’ second line erupts in win over Jets

Quick Hits: Blackhawks’ second line erupts in win over Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Finding offense against the Winnipeg Jets: for the Blackhawks this season, it hasn't been easy.

And even on Friday night, it ultimately wasn't about what the Blackhawks produced in their 5-2 victory over the Jets. It was about what they gave up, and between Corey Crawford's work and that of the defense, that wasn't much.

But this trip isn't over just yet. So before we wrap it up in Edmonton, let's look at the Quick Hits from Friday's game:

What Worked: The Blackhawks' second line. It wasn't that long ago that Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov were so quiet offensively that some wondered if it was time to split them up. Coach Joel Quenneville wasn't hearing of it; the potential of what they could do together was too strong. Good thinking. The line was tremendous on Friday night, with Kane and Anisimov each having a goal and an assist and Panarin recording a goal and two assists.  

What Didn't Work: The Jets attempt at a comeback. Winnipeg had its chances, including two power plays in the final eight minutes of regulation. But unlike their last meeting in Chicago, the Jets weren't going to get the best of the Blackhawks in this one. The Blackhawks defended well, and Duncan Keith's goal, which made it 3-1 at the time, was a dagger to the Jets.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Star of the game: Brent Seabrook. Sure, it'd be easy to go with Kane (see his latest milestone number below). But Seabrook also deserves credit for a strong game. Look at his block late in the second period: if that goal gets through it's a 2-2 game and who knows how things carry over into the third period. Seabrook played just under 20 minutes against the Jets, recording three shots on goal and six blocked shots, tied for team best with Niklas Hjalmarsson. Corey Crawford was grateful. "Yeah, he was awesome out there. He had like 12 saves," Crawford said.

He Said It: "When we began this trip after the break, it was an important stretch for us knowing we could make or break our year. We captured some momentum here going into the last part of it. It's been a real positive trip for us, and tonight may have been the best." – Coach Joel Quenneville

By the Numbers: 

269 – Career goals for Patrick Kane, who is now sixth all-time on the Blackhawks list in that category. That's also the most goals for an American-born player in Blackhawks history. 

185 – Multi-point games for Kane (goal, assist), tying Joe Thornton for sixth most in the league since Kane's rookie season. (Stat courtesy of TSN StatsCentre). 

1 for 16 – Blackhawks power play vs. the Jets through these first two tonight and the previous four games.

5 – Goals for the Blackhawks on Friday night. They had five goals in their previous four games combined against the Jets this season.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”