Chicago Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin Named First Star Of Week

By Colin Likas
Mar 29, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. Chicago won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at the PPG PAINTS Arena. Chicago won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Not long after Patrick Kane won a month NHL award, Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin took in a weekly award from the league

Over the weekend, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month for his efforts in March. Just another point of recognition to add to the Blackhawks’ haul in the current era.

Well, add even another one to that. Artemi Panarin parlayed a six-point week into First Star of the Week honors from the NHL on Monday.

Panarin has the same number of points as the digits on his back (72) after tallying five goals and one assist across the previous four games. He had a goal in the loss to Tampa Bay, added a goal and his lone assist on the week in a victory against Pittsburgh, notched two goals in the win over Columbus and added a final goal in yesterday’s loss to Boston.

For the season, Panarin has 29 goals and 43 assists. He’s closing in on a $1.725 million bonus that he’d receive for finishing in the NHL’s top 10 in points, sitting tied with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin for that 10 spot. Also close by are San Jose’s Brent Burns (73 points) and Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (74).

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Panarin is also likely to earn an $850,000 bonus for, as the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Hine reports, “reaching various team milestones in points, plus-minus rating and games played.” Not to mention the two-year contract extension that’ll kick in for Panarin next season.

But this is all stuff to worry about after the current season is over, especially since the Blackhawks are confirmed as the Western Conference’s top seed heading into the postseason, with just one week remaining in the regular season.

More on the playoffs

Before we talk some Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s worth noting the other two NHL stars of the week. Washington winger Marcus Johansen received the second star for recording a goal and seven assists in four games, while Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot was named third star thanks to a 3-0-0 record last week, which included a .946/1.66 slashline.

Now, back to the big picture. The Blackhawks have three regular-season games remaining, all on the road. First comes a tilt against the Colorado Avalanche before they finish the season on a California swing with Anaheim on Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday.

Only one of these teams has anything to play for, as the Ducks are fighting tooth and nail to win the Pacific Division. Still, I’d expect the Blackhawks to find spots for resting key players in these final tilts, especially tomorrow against the lowly Avalanche.

The President’s Trophy is likely out of the picture, as Washington holds a five-point edge for that, with the Capitals holding a game in hand. I’m not sure the Blackhawks care too much about that distinction — they seemed far more concerned with positioning themselves as well as possible in their own conference.

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Speaking of positioning, though, the rest of the West needs to shake itself out. No one else is locked into a seed as of yet, though the final eight teams were finalized last night. Los Angeles lost to Arizona, pushing Nashville into the postseason.

Minnesota (100 points) is the closest to being locked in behind the Blackhawks, as St. Louis (93 points) can only surpass the Wild by winning out and having Minnesota gain just one point over its final three games, or the Blues would have to win all of their final four games and hope the Wild lose out.

Nashville (91 points) can still take the Central’s third spot from St. Louis, though the Preds cannot surpass the Wild in the standings. The Preds could also take the first wild card, instead of the second one they currently occupy. Calgary (92 points) holds a one-point edge for that slot.

But don’t count the Flames out in the Pacific, as they’re just three points behind the stumbling San Jose Sharks (95 points). Red-hot Edmonton (97 points) isn’t safe from being surpassed by the Sharks, but Anaheim (99 points) isn’t safe from being surpassed by both squads (though the Flames cannot win the Pacific, at least).

Next: Ranking The League's Starting Goaltender Masks

There’s a lot to be played out in this final week, though not as much as in the East, where three playoff spots are still at large and the Metropolitan’s heavy hitters are still trying to sort themselves out.

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