Blackhawks will be well represented at NHL All-Star Game

Blackhawks will be well represented at NHL All-Star Game

The Blackhawks players started banging their sticks on the ice following coach Joel Quenneville’s announcement.

One year after having just one representative at the NHL All-Star Game, the Blackhawks are slated to have four this year.

Patrick Kane, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews were named to this year’s All-Star Game, which will be Jan. 29 in Los Angeles. It was a privilege for all selected and for one, somewhat of a surprise.

“I really didn’t expect to hear my name get called for the all-star game this year, knowing how great of a season (Marian Hossa, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov) are having. No doubt about it, they’re much more deserving,” said Toews, who was also selected last season but had to bow out due to illness. “In some ways maybe they can take advantage of the rest and continue the way they’re playing after the game. But definitely would like to see those guys get what they deserve and get that recognition.”

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Indeed, based on their performances this season, there’s certainly a case for all three of those players who aren’t going. Anisimov leads the Blackhawks with 18 goals. Hossa has 16 goals and Panarin is second on the team with 41 points (Kane leads with 44).

For Kane and Toews, this is the sixth time they’ve been selected for the game. This is Keith’s fourth selection and Crawford’s second. Kane, last year’s lone Blackhawks representative after Toews fell ill, said it’ll be nice to have a few teammates along.

“It’s a lot more enjoyable, a lot more fun when you have your teammates there,” said Kane, who agreed others could have easily been selected, too. “You could throw Anisimov in there, Hossa, Hjalmarsson, [Brent Seabrook], we could have a bunch of guys going. I guess there are only so many spots given.”

There are always guys who get left off these rosters. It’s the way it goes with trying to get other teams’ represented. But the Blackhawks will still get a good group of players headed to the game, and they’ll enjoy the weekend.

“Every time you get named to something like this, special feeling. A lot of great players in the league who could go but aren’t going,” Keith said. “I’m fortunate to be part of a group of great players that make me play better, too.”

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.

Ryan Hartman’s hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Predators

Ryan Hartman’s hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Predators

Every hockey-playing kid has probably dreamed of recording a hat trick. The dream probably features every goal scored in dramatic or stylish fashion, hats reigning down after it’s complete.

For Ryan Hartman, that first career NHL hat trick was complete thanks to two empty-net goals. OK, probably not the way he would’ve drawn it up but you better believe he’ll take it.

Hartman tallied a hat trick, which included a reviewed game-winner and two empty-net goals, as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Sunday night. It was the third victory in a row for the Blackhawks, who remain atop the Western Conference.

Artemi Panarin scored his 17th goal of the season and Niklas Hjalmarsson added his fifth, a career high for a season for the defenseman. Corey Crawford stopped 25 of 27 shots for the victory.

[RELATED: Five Things from Blackhawks-Predators]

But the story was Hartman, who continues to be one of the Blackhawks’ top rookies this season.

“I didn’t know he got that second one, so going out for the faceoff there at the end, I just kind of looked at him and asked if he had two goals. He said, ‘Yeah,’ so good for him,” said Patrick Kane, who had three assists, including the primary one on Hartman’s third goal. “He’s been a big player for us this year and he’s been very productive. He plays a good style of hockey that we’ve kind of been missing for a little bit. He’s physical, he draws penalties and it seems like he’s always on the puck. He’s had a great season so far.”

Hartman’s biggest goal was his first one, a net-front deflection in which the puck crossed the line as the net was coming out of its moorings. Called a goal on the ice, it was reviewed and deemed a good goal. As the NHL situation room stated:

Video review confirmed that the puck deflected off the body of Chicago's Ryan Hartman and into the net in a legal fashion, before the net was dislodged. According to Rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed". Good goal Chicago.

Hartman, who scored a slick goal against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, felt more like himself on this one.

“I think goals like tonight are a little more like me. I don’t know about the other night,” Hartman said. “It’s nice to get a couple of those where you don’t really use your stick and they kind of go off you.”

Corey Crawford said Hartman deserved that kind of ending, considering his block on Mattias’ Ekholm’s shot not long before Hartman’s first goal.

“Quick play out front and a one-timer right in the slot, [Hartman] sacrificed, went down blocking it comes back and he gets a hat trick,” Crawford said. “Everyone’s happy for him. he played awesome.”

Hartman’s first empty-net goal was a longer-distance shot that line mate Richard Panik was close to as it crossed the line. But Panik said he didn’t touch it.

“My first thought was, ‘I can’t take this from him,’” Panik said with a smile. “I was just trying to play the [defense] and it went in.”

Hartman’s hat trick probably wasn’t how he drew it up in his head but it was effective nonetheless. The Blackhawks are back on the right track following a slump around the holidays, and contributions like that are part of it.

“It’s a long season. There are going to be times when things don’t go your way and you don’t get bounces. There are games where the other team just plays well,” Crawford said. “[It’s just] sticking to it, not letting anything bother you, and keep playing the way you can.”