Youth movement serves Wild

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Youth movement serves Wild

Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw have been playing so well that coach Joel Quenneville admitted theyre both very deserving of staying a while.

That trend continued on Thursday.

Hayes had a power-play goal and an assist and Shaw added his second goal this season as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 at the United Center on Thursday night. The Blackhawks, who moved back to first place in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference, have won two straight and have gotten points in their last three games.

Dave Bolland had two goals a power-play score and an empty netter and an assist. Viktor Stalberg added his 13th goal of the season, a new career high.

It was another impressive night for the rookies, who continue to log good minutes and contribute in every capacity the two combined for seven of the Blackhawks 24 hits.

That was a big goal by Shaw early on. He was dangerous off the rush, hes smart and keeps himself in the play, coach Joel Quenneville said. Jimmy scored a big one for our power play which wasnt pretty up to that point. We liked our contributions.

The Blackhawks will have to make choices soon, however, as Marcus Kruger should be back this weekend. But Shaw and Hayes are nevertheless making statements to stay.

After Devin Setoguchi gave the Wild an early 1-0 lead the Blackhawks turned it up offensively, scoring four consecutive goals. Shaw started it, and Hayes added his power-play goal off a pretty Bolland pass.

Jimmy is a big body in front, as you guys can tell, Bolland said. When he stands in front I think its tough to move him around. And I know when youre playing against a big guy in the defensive zone it is tough.

The Blackhawks got those across-the-board contributions theyve been looking for tonight. Whether it was good defense, different names on the score sheet or scoring on that struggling power play they went 2 for 3 tonight the Blackhawks were doing all the right things.

It was one of our more complete games from start to finish and a sign that were learning from recent mistakes, said defenseman Steve Montador, who had two assists. Theyre a tough team to play because they make you play a patient game and we wanted to not sit back and wanted to play an energetic game.

Michael Frolik also had two assists, as 10 different Blackhawks garnered a point against the Wild.

The Blackhawks have a tricky weekend coming up, with back to backs against Detroit on Saturday and San Jose on Sunday. Theyve been playing the team game with Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger and Daniel Carcillo out of the lineup, and theyre feeling more confident in it.

Things are working in the offensive zone, but youve got to also work in the defensive zone to get those offensive chances. I think were coming back, were helping our defensemen there, and were getting some quick outs to get in their zone quicker, Bolland said. I think right now were rolling and its a good thing.

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.