Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks’ Who’s Hot, Who’s Not: Panarin, Kane On Fire

By George Clifford
Dec 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) celebrates his goal against the San Jose Sharks with left wing Artemi Panarin (72) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) celebrates his goal against the San Jose Sharks with left wing Artemi Panarin (72) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /
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Panarin and Kane ignite team effort as Chicago Blackhawks extend win streak to five games

Exploding again Sunday night for three third-period goals, the Chicago Blackhawks came from behind to beat the San Jose Sharks 4-1 for their fifth consecutive win. At 22-8-4, the ‘Hawks sit on top the Western Conference with 48 points. In his post-game remarks, coach Joel Quenneville cited the “team game…where everybody’s contributing” as the main element in Chicago’s recent string of victories against formidable opponents.

A rising tide lifts all boats, and the Blackhawks’ current win streak has featured key production from secondary players as well as the usual stars. Here’s a look at the top producers and a couple players still finding their way over the past week’s action.

Who’s hot: Artemi Panarin.

Threatening to self-immolate with supernatural point production, Artemi Panarin notched three goals and seven assists in the last four games and was named the NHL’s first star of the week. The 2016 Calder Trophy winner has posted 10 multi-point games this season, and his 34 points ranks third in the NHL. Incredibly, his stat sheet shows just one game-winning goal. That won’t last.

Who’s not: Michal Kempny.                                                                            

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With Trevor van Riemsdyk back in the lineup and producing points, Michal Kempny has been the odd man out, playing just once in the past 7 games. The 26-year-old Czech defenseman is loaded with talent and has a great shot, but is prone to turnovers and getting caught out of position. With 27 shots in 23 games, he deserves more than just two assists.

Who’s hot: Patrick Kane.

Having played the previous nine games without a score, Patrick Kane exploded for two goals and an assist at St. Louis and then an empty-net goal to seal the win over the Sharks. The reigning MVP is on track for another great year with 32 points, two game-winning goals, and a plus-5 as the Blackhawks round into the heart of the schedule.

Who’s not: Jordin Tootoo.

With no points in 26 games, Jordin Tootoo has become an automatic entry in the under-performing category, but lack of production has not made him a major liability. Averaging just over six minutes per game, he’s been a reliable fourth-line skater at minus-1 overall along with two giveaways and 3 hits. It could be a lot worse.

Who’s hot: Vinnie Hinostroza.

After multiple stints in the ‘who’s not’ category, Vinnie Hinostroza is finally  converting high energy into points. His dazzling backhander proved to be the game-winning goal against the Blues Saturday night, and he had the primary assist on Ryan Hartman’s game-winner Sunday over the Sharks. He’s also filled-in at the dot during the absences of Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov.

Who’s hot: Ryan Hartman.

In honor of the Blackhawks’ five-game win streak, I’ll wrap this feature with the exceptional performance of Ryan Hartman whose four points in five games includes the game-winning goal against the Sharks. Hartman is looking like a real top-six forward.

Next: Chicago Blackhawks, NHL 3 Stars: Panarin Posts Stellar Week

The Blackhawks continue their homestand this week hosting Ottawa, Colorado, and Winnipeg. Who will be the difference makers for the Blackhawks? Watch this space.

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