Tag Archives: Blackhawks

Blackhawks Keep Coyotes Winless With 4-2 Victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks took a two-goal lead on a penalty shot by Tommy Wingels, only to have it erased upon review. The struggling Arizona Coyotes scored quickly after the rare play, tying the game and snatching the momentum. The Blackhawks are a veteran team, though, and kept grinding to keep the Coyotes winless. Wingels got to cap it with an empty-net goal to boot. Lance Bouma scored on a rebound with 4:24 left in the third period, Corey Crawford stopped 27 shots and the Blackhawks beat the NHL’s only winless team 4-2 on Saturday night. “We rebounded after that and found a way to get a win,” said Wingels, who also had an assist. “The hockey gods kind of repay you, I think.” The Coyotes have been playing better lately, but their only point is an overtime loss to Vegas the second game of the season. Arizona was aggressive and Louis Domingue made some spectacular saves against the Blackhawks after being replaced by rookie Adin Hill the past two games. The Blackhawks were just better. Patrick Kane and Richard Panik each scored and Jonathan Toews had a pair of assists for Chicago, which had lost three of four. Wingels put the game out of reach with his empty netter. “We just stuck with it and it was a big win for us,” Bouma said. The Coyotes made just enough mistakes in another what-could-have-been loss. Arizona failed to hold a lead for the sixth time in eight games, gave up another quick goal after scoring and allowed a breakaway goal after getting caught pinching at Chicago’s blue line The Coyotes also went 0-for-4 on the power play, including two minutes of five-on-three. Clayton Keller had his NHL rookie-best sixth goal of the season and Christian Fischer also scored for the Coyotes, who dropped to 0-7-1 with a long road trip next. “A lot of positive things, but came up short again,” said Domingue, who stopped 25 shots. “We’re getting close and against one of the greatest teams over the past decade, I thought we showed a lot of positive things.” Arizona took the early lead when a shot by Fischer hit the stick of Chicago defenseman Jordan Oesterle and slipped between Crawford’s pads. No problem for the Blackhawks. The Coyotes have had a penchant for giving up goals immediately after scoring and did it again against Chicago. Panik got this one, deflecting the puck past Domingue on a shot by Toews 1:01 after Fischer’s goal. It was the ninth time Arizona has given up a goal less than two minutes after scoring. Arizona’s defensemen also have been caught pinching at the blue line multiple times this season, leading breakaways and odd-man rushes. That happened again, too, this time giving Kane, one of the best stick handlers in the game, a free run at Domingue. Kane beat him between the pads, using a deke to open up a forehand shot for his fourth of the season. “We had a chance to score and it was kind of a fluke thing, and he gets a goal there,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said. Wingels appeared to give the Blackhawks a two-goal lead by scoring on a penalty shot, but it was waived off after a review showed Domingue touched the puck before Wingels knocked it in. Arizona capitalized with a quick goal this time, with Keller backhanding a loose puck in the crease past Crawford after Wingels’ goal was negated. NOTES: Arizona D Niklas Hjalmarsson played against this former team for the first time. He spent 10 seasons with Chicago, winning the Stanley Cup three times, before being traded to Arizona for Connor Murphy. … Blackhawks trainer Jeff Thomas worked his 1,000th NHL game. … Arizona G Antti Raanta missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury. … Chicago has won eight straight against Arizona. UP NEXT Chicago plays at Vegas on Tuesday night. Arizona kicks off a five-game eastern trip against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

Eddie Olczyk Offers Inspiration During Battle With Colon Cancer

(CBS) Prior to first pitch of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on Thursday night, the Cubs played an inspirational message from Eddie Olczyk, the venerable hockey commentator currently fighting colon cancer. Olczyk reminded that one can be defined by responding to adversity, as he has during his battle, and the sellout crowd offered a standing ovation. Olczyk wasn’t at Wrigley Field on Thursday. Instead, he was working the Blackhawks telecast for their game against the Oilers, and he received another standing ovation at the United Center, the same as he did at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Wednesday night in his first broadcast since the diagnosis. While facing quite the fight, Olczyk has returned to work as he’s able. There, he has inspired others and received plenty of support. He spoke of the battle Friday on the Spiegel & Parkins Show on 670 The Score. “I feel pretty good this week,” Olczyk said. “It’s been a battle. These last three months have just been a stop-me-in-my-tracks moment. Sadly, there’s millions and millions and millions of people that are fighting this disease and families that are going through it with loved ones. I’m just so lucky to have the incredible support of my family. My wife of 30 years has just been the pillar of power and strength and support. My kids, my folks, my brothers and my extended family with the Blackhawks, I don’t have enough time in my life to thank them. “I have my good days and my bad days. Anybody that’s seen cancer and seen chemo therapy, I think that they can relate. There are a lot of times I’m horizontal for five, six days at a time, which is pretty tough. But when I have my good days, I want to take advantage of it. “It’s been the best medicine I’ve taken in the last little while.” Olczyk was able to work this week because of a healthy response to a bi-weekly chemotherapy cycle. He will begin the fourth of 12 rounds of chemo Monday. The diagnosis of Olczyk’s cancer went public in early August, just a week after he had the tumor removed from his colon. He would’ve preferred to keep the news private if not for a busy schedule of public appearances, including his work broadcasting hockey and horse racing for NBC and NBC Sports Chicago. Ever since word spread of the diagnosis, Olczyk has found that he has great support in his fight. “I’ve been scared, am scared, will be scared, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” he said. “I’ve had enough quiet time these last three months and moving forward to last me a lifetime, and I’ve been to places I don’t want to go. But that’s just human nature. “It’s OK to cry. It’s just the reality. To me, I felt initially that I had let everybody down. I let my family down, I let the Blackhawks down, I let the NHL down, I let the horse racing community down. And after getting slapped a couple times by my close friends, people saying, ‘Look, you absorb this. It happens.’ So you do draw yourself into areas where you don’t want to go. The positive and the attitude is so important. I know, it just happens I happen to be a public figure. I would’ve loved to have gone under a rock with this. “The mental part of it is what really makes it tough. That’s the way I look at it. I’ve been to places that I don’t want to go, and sometimes I drift there. But that’s where I rely on my support team. I’m not going to stop until it’s out of me, and I can win and beat this thing.”

Oilers Top Blackhawks In Overtime, 2-1

CHICAGO (AP) — Mark Letestu scored on a power play with 15.8 seconds left in overtime to give the Edmonton Oilers a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night. Letestu beat Anton Forsberg on the short side with a one-time shot from the left circle after taking a pass from Oscar Klefbom. Edmonton’s 4-on-3 advantage was set up after Patrick Kane was called for hooking at 3:45. Edmonton’s Cam Talbot made 30 straight saves after giving up a fluke goal to Kane on Chicago’s first shot. The Oilers snapped a four-game losing streak. Anton Forsberg, Chicago’s backup, stopped 40 shots in his second start this season, but the Blackhawks lost their second straight and third in four games. No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford got the night off following a 5-2 loss at St. Louis on Wednesday night. Edmonton’s Patrick Maroon scored late in the first period. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid had two assists, including setting up Maroon with sensational spinning move and pinpoint backhand pass. McDavid has five assists in his last four games, but last season’s MVP and leading scorer, doesn’t have a goal since netting all three in Edmonton’s season-opening 3-0 victory over Calgary. Chicago failed to convert five power plays, including a 56-second 5-on-3 advantage. Talbot, who led NHL goalies in games and minutes last season, had been pulled twice as he started Edmonton’s first four games this season. Backup Laurent Brossoit started Edmonton’s fifth contest, a 5-3 home loss to Carolina on Tuesday night. Kane opened the scoring 7:33 in. From the right side of crease, Kane flipped a soft backhander toward Talbot, and the puck ticked off the goalie’s stick and right pad before settling into the net. Talbot bounced back to stop Jonathan Toews on a breakaway moments later and Duncan Keith’s point-blank one-timer at 9:00. Maroon’s tap-in goal, converting McDavid’s nifty pass, tied with 2:42 left in the period. McDavid moved in against Keith, Chicago’s All-Star defenseman. McDavid turned his back to Keith, shuffled and then dished across the crease to Maroon, who connected after slipping past defenseman Brent Seabrook. Talbot maintained his focus into the scoreless second and during three Chicago power plays early in the period, including the 5-on-3 Blackhawks advantage. He made several close-in stops, including on Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad and Toews. Kane clanked a shot off the crossbar during one flurry. Forsberg denied McDavid, Anton Slepyshev and Brad Malone at the doorstep late in the period to keep it tied. Both goalies made several tough saves in the third. Forsberg stopped Kailer Yamamoto point-blank three times late in the period. Talbot got a piece of Toews’ shot from the slot with 7:13 remaining, then the puck trickled just wide of the right post. Talbot and Forsberg were both sharp overtime. NOTES: Oilers C Leon Draisaitl missed his third game with concussion symptoms, but took part in Thursday’s morning skate and said he hoped to return Saturday at Philadelphia. … Blackhawks D Jordan Oesterle, a former Oiler, made his season debut, He replaced D Michal Kempny in the lineup. UP NEXT Oilers: At Philadelphia on Saturday night. Blackhawks: At Arizona on Saturday night. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

Blues Beat Blackhawks, 5-2

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jaden Schwartz had his third career hat trick to help the St. Louis Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-2, on Wednesday night. Schwartz has four goals and six assists this season and has at least one point in six of the Blues’ first seven games. It was his 51st career multi-point game and fourth this season. Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Kyle Brodziak also scored, and Jake Allen made 22 saves. The Blues snapped a two-game losing streak Duncan Keith and Ryan Hartman had late goals for Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 28 saves. Schwartz opened the scoring at 4:46 of the first period, tucking in a backhander off Tarasenko’s feed. Schwartz left the game eight minutes later after going awkwardly head-first into the boards after getting tangled with Richard Panik on a partial short-handed break. Schwartz returned in the second period, and gave the Blues a 2-0 lead at 5:59. Allen’s outlet pass off the boards created a 2-on-1 with Schwartz and Sammy Blais. It was Allen’s fourth career assist. Tarasenko made it 3-0 two minutes later, scoring his fifth of the season by stripping Artem Anisimov in front of the Chicago net. St. Louis outshot Chicago 26-8 in the first two periods, including 17-4 in the second. The four shots in each of the first two periods were a season low for the Blackhawks in a period. Brodziak scored at 7:01 of the third. It was the first time this season the Blues’ third or fourth line scored. After Keith and Hartman scored for Chicago, Schwartz completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal. NOTES: Blackhawks television analyst Eddie Olczyk, who is battling colon cancer, received a standing ovation from the crowd of 18,752 after being recognized late in the first period. Olczyk was back in the booth for the first time since his diagnosis in August. … Blues F Alexander Steen (broken left hand) was activated from injured reserve and made his season debut. To make room, the Blues waived F Wade Megan. … Blues F Paul Stastny is one point shy of 600 for his career. … Blackhawks C Nick Schmaltz (upper body) returned after missing four games. UP NEXT Blackhawks: Host Edmonton on Thursday night. Blues: Travel to Colorado on Thursday night. (© 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)

Brandon Saad’s OT Goal Lifts Blackhawks Over Predators, 2-1

CHICAGO (AP) — This time, the Chicago Blackhawks made a big play at a key moment against the Nashville Predators. Brandon Saad scored his sixth goal 3:05 into overtime, and the Blackhawks beat the Predators, 2-1, on Saturday night in their first meeting since last year’s playoffs. Saad beat Pekka Rinne with a one-timed deflection as he cut across the crease from the left side, making the most of a pinpoint cross-ice pass from Patrick Kane. “It always feels nice to contribute to wins,” Saad said. “It was just a great pass. I hopped on the ice, and Kaner makes a great tic-tac-toe play.” Corey Crawford had 37 saves for Chicago, which wasted six power-play chances. The Blackhawks were swept by the Predators in the first round of the postseason last April. “It’s a big win against them,” Crawford said. “It’s kind of nice to beat them from last year, but it’s a new season. “They’re a tough team to play against.” Patrick Sharp scored with 5:36 left in the third period, spoiling Rinne’s shutout bid and sending the game to overtime. “I think it was just tough sledding out there,” Sharp said. “That’s a well-coached team, pretty disciplined through the neutral zone. “We had to kind of grind it out a little bit.” After Cody Franson held in a Nashville clearing attempt on the right boards, the puck bounded to rookie John Hayden. He fed Sharp to the right off the crease and the veteran forward beat Rinne with a backhander on Chicago’s 26th shot. Filip Forsberg scored a power-play goal late in the second period for Nashville. It was his fifth goal in five games. The Predators picked up right where they left in the playoffs last year, shutting down Chicago’s high-scoring attack. The Predators outscored the Blackhawks 13-3 in their playoff sweep in their first step on the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Rinne made 33 saves Saturday night, but wasn’t tested until late. Nashville coach Peter Laviolette thought one goal was going be enough for his team. “It should have been a shutout,” Laviolette said. “It should have been 1-0 and we should have been out of here. “I thought the guys were right money tonight with decisions and speed and the game plan. We did a lot of good things.” The Predators played with a shuffled defense with Roman Josi and Yannick Weber out with short-term injuries. Ryan Ellis is sidelined until December following offseason knee surgery. Nashville dominated a scoreless first period while giving Chicago limited space. The Predators kept up their close checking in the second and jumped in front on Forsberg’s goal on their 29th shot with 1:44 left in the period. P.K. Subban slid a low shot from the top of the slot through traffic toward Crawford. Scott Hartnell, parked in front in the crease, deflected the puck to the left side of the net and a wide-open Forsberg, who picked up his fourth goal in three games. Chicago’s Ryan Hartman shot wide on a breakaway at 8:32 of the second. Crawford stopped Viktor Arvidsson, alone at the edge of the crease with 30 second left in the period, to keep it at 1-0. NOTES: Josi missed his third game (upper body). Weber sat out his first after taking a high hit on Thursday versus Dallas. … D Anthony Bitetto jumped in for his second game this season. … Nashville C Nick Bonino didn’t play in the third period, but Laviolette didn’t have an injury report postgame. … Chicago C Nick Schmaltz missed his fourth game (upper body), but coach Joel Quenneville said the forward is close to returning. … Chicago D Connor Murphy was a scratch for the second time in three games. UP NEXT Predators: Host Colorado on Tuesday. Blackhawks: At St. Louis on Wednesday. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

Chris Stewart Scores Twice, Wild Beats Blackhawks 5-2

CHICAGO (AP) — Chris Stewart broke a tie midway through the third period with the first of his two goals and the Minnesota Wild beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Thursday night for their first victory of the season. Jason Zucker had a goal and an assist, and Devan Dubnyk made 36 saves to help the Wild (1-1-1) hand Chicago (3-1-1) its first regulation loss. Stewart tapped Zucker’s feed past Corey Crawford from the doorstep at 9:28 of the third to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead. Stewart and Zucker broke in 2-on-1 against Duncan Keith after fellow defenseman Brent Seabrook fell down on the play. The goal withstood a video review after the Blackhawks challenged Zucker was offside. Zucker added a power-play goal with 7:31 to go on the delay-of-game penalty that resulted from the failed Chicago challenge. He banged the puck in from behind the net off Crawford’s skate. Stewart scored into an empty net with 4:04 remaining to make it 4-1. Mikko Koivu added another empty-netter with 2:01 left. Minnesota’s Eric Staal opened the scoring with 34.5 seconds left in the second. Chicago’s Ryan Hartman connected midway through the third period to tie it at 1. Jonathan Toews’ goal in the final minute completed the scoring. Crawford stopped 29 shots. Chicago entered having outscored its opponents 21-7 in four games. Neither team had many chances in the scoreless first period as the Blackhawks failed to connect in the opening frame for the first time in five games. Chicago has outscored opponents 11-1 in the first. Crawford made point-blank saves on Zucker and Charlie Coyle less than a minute apart early in the second. The Blackhawks dominated late in the period, but misfired on prime chances or were stopped by Dubnyk. Staal scored with 34.5 seconds left in the second to make it 1-0 as Minnesota capitalized on a turnover and coverage mistake by 21-year-old Chicago defenseman Gustav Forsling. Forsling lost the puck just to Coyle just inside the Chicago blue line, then was caught flat-footed as Staal broke in alone down the left side of the slot. After taking Coyle’s cross-ice feed, Staal beat Crawford on the short side. Hartman tied it 1 at 8:21 of the third, when he tucked in a rebound of Patrick Kane’s shot from the left point. With Tanner Kero screening, Dubnyk stopped Kane’s shot, but Hartman was open on the right side of the crease and slid the puck past Dubnyk’s left pad. NOTES: Minnesota LW Zach Parise sat out with an undisclosed injury and has yet to play this season, but he resumed practicing this week. … RW Mikael Granlund missed his second game with a groin injury and is expected to miss three more, according to coach Bruce Boudreau. … Chicago C Nick Schmaltz missed his third game with upper-body injury. He practiced on Thursday and could return on Saturday. … Blackhawks D Connor Murphy, acquired in the offseason from Arizona, returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch Tuesday night in Chicago’s 3-1 win at Montreal. UP NEXT Wild: Host Columbus on Saturday night. Blackhawks: Host Nashville on Saturday night. (© 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)

DeBrincat Helps Blackhawks To 3-1 Win Over Montreal

MONTREAL (AP) — Alex DeBrincat scored his first NHL goal and set up one for Artem Anisimov to help the Chicago Blackhawks spoil the Montreal Canadiens’ home opener with a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night. Brandon Saad also scored for Chicago (3-0-1), which was coming off an overtime loss Monday night in Toronto. Tomas Plekanec scored for Montreal (1-3-0), which has lost three in a row and scored only four goals in as many games. The Canadiens went 0 for 5 on the power play and are now 0 for 14 for the season. Montreal outshot the Blackhawks 42-25. The Canadiens had a 16-7 shot advantage in the opening period but Chicago emerged with a 2-1 lead. Plekanec picked off a Ryan Hartman pass in the Blackhawks zone, wheeled and scored on a wrist shot inside the near post 1:15 into the game. Patrick Sharp intercepted a Jordie Benn clearing attempt and fed DeBrincat for a one-timer that beat Carey Price at 17:53. Only 19 seconds later, Saad got this fifth goal of the season on a tap-in while finishing a three-man rush with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik. DeBrincat made the decisive pass that Anisimov finished with a tap-in on a power play 10:44 into the second frame. The Blackhawks drafted the 5-foot-7 DeBrincat 39th overall in 2016. The 19-year-old was voted top player in the Ontario Hockey League last season when he scored 65 goals for the Erie Otters. (© 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)

Maple Leafs Rally For 4-3 Overtime Win Against Blackhawks

TORONTO (AP) — Auston Matthews scored in overtime and the Toronto Maple Leafs came from behind to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-3, on Monday night. Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown and James van Riemsdyk also scored for the Maple Leafs, who have won their first three games. Jan Rutta, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik had goals for the Blackhawks. Frederik Andersen made 18 saves for the win while Anton Forsberg stopped 39 shots. Outside of the opening three minutes, the first period belonged to the Blackhawks, and they went into the intermission up 2-0. Rutta scored 3:46 into the game when he wheeled around the back of the net and tossed the puck out front, where it hit Toronto center Mitch Marner’s stick and squeaked through Andersen and the post. Eric Fehr had a great chance to tie it three minutes later, but was turned away by Forsberg, and Chicago went down the ice and doubled its advantage. Toews made it 2-0 when he banged in a rebound over the left pad of Andersen with 12:53 to play in the first. It could have been a three-goal edge for Chicago if Andersen didn’t turn away Patrick Sharp on a breakaway late in the first. It wasn’t until the midway point of the second that Toronto picked up its pace and was awarded its first power-play opportunity after some sustained pressure by Matthews in the offensive zone. The Leafs failed to capitalize on the man advantage, but Zaitsev put them on the board soon after, streaking in from the Blackhawks blue line and taking a pass from Brown before snapping the puck five-hole on Forsberg at 10:20. Matthews nearly tied the game on a two-on-one rush five minutes later with a toe-drag into a wrist shot, but Forsberg stayed with him and got his right arm on the puck. The final eight minutes of the second were filled with minor penalties and lots of four-on-four hockey, but no one was able to take advantage of the open ice. Matthews had another good scoring chance before the period was through, but Forsberg was there again to stop him. Toronto was behind 2-1 after 40 minutes despite outshooting Chicago 26-15. Zach Hyman created a scoring chance for himself early in the third only to be turned aside by Forsberg. Forsberg’s play allowed the Blackhawks to restore their two-goal lead 7:52 into the third. Panik took the puck off the end boards after it ricocheted in front from a point shot and slotted it into an empty net on the power play. Leafs coach Mike Babcock started shuffling his lines late in the third and it paid off with two goals in less than three minutes. First, Brown beat Forsberg with Leo Komarov setting the screen in front with seven minutes to go in regulation. Then, van Riemsdyk tied the game on the power play, deflecting a Tyler Bozak shot past Forsberg with 4:18 remaining. Shots were 40-21 for Toronto after regulation. NOTES: Both clubs entered the night with a league-high 15 goals for in their first two games. … Leafs defenseman Connor Carrick was replaced in the lineup by Andreas Borgman. UP NEXT Blackhawks: Play at Montreal on Tuesday night. Maple Leafs: Host New Jersey on Wednesday night. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

Zawaski: So Far, So Good For New-Look Blackhawks

By Jay Zawaski– (CBS) In their strong 2-0 start, the Blackhawks have outscored their opponents 15-2. They started their season well off the Chicago sports radar, behind the championship-contending Cubs, a Bears team with a quarterback controversy and even the dysfunctional Bulls, but suddenly after two convincing wins over quality foes, the Blackhawks are starting to catch the eye of sports fans who may have lost a big of interest after two consecutive first-round exits. Any time a team begins a season well, it’s noteworthy, but it’s not just how the Hawks are winning but who’s helping them win that way. Of course, the usual suspects of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and newly re-acquired Brandon Saad (who I predict will score 35-plus goals this year) are performing well, but it’s some of the team’s bigger question marks entering the season who have really turned some heads. One of those is Richard Panik. As broadcaster Pat Foley noted in the Blackhawks’ opening game against the Penguins, Panik finished at the top of the team in their preseason strength tests. Those results have shown on the ice. Panik has looked like a true power forward, plowing through defensemen, winning forecheck battles and tossing defenders aside all while adding two goals and an assist in the first two games. Despite Panik coming off a 22-goal season, there were doubts if he was for real, but he’s looked right at home alongside Toews and Saad and is in good shape to shatter that 22-goal mark this season. Another Hawks forward turning heads is Nick Schmaltz. Despite leaving both games with injury, Schmaltz has made his time on the ice count. He has two goals and an assist of his own centering Kane and Ryan Hartman. Schmaltz has been effective at both ends of the ice and is looking comfortable playing center, which to me was one of the main questions heading in to this season. He must work to improve his abysmal face-off numbers (33 percent this year, 31 percent in his career), but that can often be the last trait to come for a player adjusting to center in the NHL. If Schmaltz can get that percentage to 47 to 50 percent, then he’ll be close to a complete package. He’ll never be Anze Kopitar or Marian Hossa defensively, but his two-way play is already good enough to stick in a top-six role. Rookie winger Alex DeBrincat has yet to register his first NHL goal, but he’s been close several times, including a late shot off the post against the Blue Jackets on Saturday. Skill and scoring have never been in question for Debrincat. The goals and points will come. The concern is his small, 5-foot-7 frame and how it will hold up against the world’s best, biggest and most-skilled players. Though it’s only been two games, we’ve seen DeBrincat win corner battles, muscle through defenders and use his leverage to get close to the net. He even knocked 6-foot-1 Penguins defenseman Ian Cole to the ice with a big hit in the season opener. Defensively, I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen from Connor Murphy. On a Blackhawks team with a thin defense, the 24-year-old Murphy’s success is essential to the team’s success. He’s shown strong defensive instincts, shot-blocking ability and a willingness to engage in front of his own net. Time will tell if his offensive game catches up, but the Blackhawks must be pleased with what they’ve seen. Perhaps the biggest surprise early on been Murphy’s defensive colleague Jan Rutta, who made the jump from the Czech league to the NHL this year and hasn’t shown any difficulty in adapting to the smaller North American ice surface. Other European defensemen who have made the jump, like Michal Kempny, have struggled with the change. Rutta has shown a poise and confidence that one wouldn’t expect to see this early into a player’s NHL career. He’s 27 and more experienced than the typical NHL rookie, and he’s been impressive, looking like a lock to become a staple on the Blackhawks’ blue line. Of course, with 10-1 and 5-1 wins, Murphy and Rutta have yet to be tested in a tight game. Come Monday, a showdown with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who look like an early Stanley Cup contender, should show just how far all of these young Hawks have come so far. Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Parkins Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast with James Neveau of NBCChicago.com that you can listen and subscribe to here. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.

Saad, Kane, Toews Lead Blackhawks To 5-1 Win Over Blue Jackets

CHICAGO (AP) — Brandon Saad, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had a goal and assist to lead the Chicago Blackhawks over the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-1, on Saturday night. Richard Panik also scored and Jan Rutta got his first NHL goal as Chicago followed up on a season-opening 10-1 rout of Pittsburgh with another solid performance. Sonny Milano scored for the Blue Jackets, who blanked the New York Islanders 5-0 in their opener Friday in Columbus. Corey Crawford made 32 saves for Chicago, while Joonas Korpisalo blocked 24 shots. Chicago center Nick Schmaltz was hit hard by two defensemen as Kane scored the opening goal 1:33 in. He later left the game with with an undisclosed injury. Schmaltz tried to return with a short shift midway through the first period. Saad, one of four players to open the season with a hat trick this week, has four goals and an assist in his first two games. Kane boosted his totals to two goals and four assists. Columbus forward Artemi Panarin, a centerpiece in an offseason trade that sent Saad back to Chicago, got a loud ovation during a first-period video tribute. The Blackhawks jumped ahead 2-0 with a dominant first period. Kane scored on the Blackhawks’ first shot when he was left open at the low edge of the right circle. He beat Korpisalo with a quick shot into the upper-right corner. Jack Johnson and Gabriel Carlsson leveled Schmaltz on the left side of the crease during the play. Schmaltz took a minute to get up, then skated slowly to the bench with help from trainer Mike Gapski. Saad made it 2-0 at 6:04 with a power-play goal when he converted a rebound from a goalmouth scrum. Chicago extended its lead to 4-1 after 40 minutes. Set up by Saad, Toews one-timed in his first goal this season from the left circle at 10:14 of the second. The play was set up when Panik knocked Seth Jones off the puck behind the Columbus net. Milano cut it to 3-1 31 seconds later when he poked in Nick Foligno’s feed that slid along the goal line behind Crawford. Rutta pinched in to the right circle and scored on a shot that deflected in off Korpisalo’s glove at 12:51 of the second to make it 4-1. Saad narrowly missed connecting again during a power-play midway through the third. His close-in shot trickled through Korpisalo, but Johnson swept the puck from the goal line. Panik completed the scoring with 5:55 left when he whipped in a loose puck after a faceoff. NOTES: NBC and Blackhawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk visited the United Center press box after having surgery for colon cancer 11 weeks ago. Some in the crowd of 21,264, chanted “Eddie, Eddie” when a live shot of Olczyk, who played 16 seasons in the NHL, was shown on the scoreboard. … Schmaltz had hobbled off the ice in the third period of Thursday’s game, but was back on a line with Kane and Ryan Hartman for his first shift Saturday before being injured again. … RW Tommy Wingels made his Blackhawks debut as C Tanner Kero sat out. Wingels, who signed a one-year free agent deal, is from Chicago’s north suburbs. … The Blackhawks had a pregame video tribute and moment of silence for Pierre Pilote, their captain from 1961 to 1968, who died last month at age 85. UP NEXT Blue Jackets: Play at Carolina on Tuesday. Blackhawks: Play at Toronto on Monday. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.