Blackhawks fans who bought tickets for Sunday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers probably did so hoping they’d see the NHL’s top rookie.
Well, they might have, after all.
Artemi Panarin continued his brilliant start to the season with two goals and an assist as the Hawks knocked off the Connor McDavid-less Oilers 4-2 at the United Center. Patrick Kane added a goal and three assists as the reunited line of Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Kane was as good as ever.
“Maybe even better,” Panarin said through interpreter Viktor Tikhonov.
“Because I scored two goals,” Panarin said.
With McDavid sidelined with a broken clavicle, Panarin has emerged as the early frontrunner for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. Panarin blanches a bit at the idea that he’s a rookie — he just turned 24, after all, and has been playing in Russia’s KHL since 2009, including full seasons the last two years. But he’s technically a rookie, and his first-two goal game gives him 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) through 15 games, passing McDavid for the league lead.
While Panarin was the star of the first period, Corey Crawford took over in the second. The Oilers came out flying, and the Hawks could only stand around and watch. Edmonton had the first 14 shots of the period, and finished with an eye-popping 22 shots in the period. But Crawford stopped every one, the most impressive being a toe save on a hard-charging Jordan Eberle late in the period. After allowing nine goals on 42 shots over his last two games, Crawford bounced back in a big way. He finished the game with 34 saves.
“I wanted to come back strong, especially when your coach gives you the net again,” Crawford said. “You want to prove him right [and] do well for him.”
The Oilers finally broke through early in the third period when Eberle put in a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins rebound, but Kane’s backhander off a nice Anisimov feed was a big insurance goal for the Hawks, who improved to 7-1-1 at home (they’re 1-5-0 on the road). Kane has at least one point in 10 straight games. With 23 points, he’s tied with Dallas’ Tyler Seguin for the league lead.
“I feel good,” Kane said. “There’s certain aspects of the game you can always improve, just like anyone. And it’s fun playing with that kid over there (Panarin). It makes it a lot easier. I give a lot of credit to my teammates, the way they’re playing around me.”
Edmonton got a late goal by Andrej Sekera with the goalie pulled, but Anisimov scored with 5.1 seconds left on a power play to seal it.
In a bizarre and potentially dangerous moment, midway through the third period, a mat used to improve acoustics in the arena fell to the ice just before a faceoff. It fortunately landed harmlessly on the ice between the Hawks forwards and defensemen. Play was only delayed for a brief moment as a linesman scooped it up and removed it.