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Blackhawks win battle, but did Artemi Panarin’s Blue Jackets win the war?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There’s no nice way to say it: The Blue Jackets wiped the ice with the Blackhawks when they traded Brandon Saad back to Chicago for Artemi Panarin on June 23, 2017.

That’s how things stand thus far, anyway.

Panarin, who will turn 27 on
Oct. 30, has 30 goals and 61 assists since the start of last season. Saad, 26 on Oct. 27, has 18 goals and 19 assists. Neither had any points in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory Saturday.

They don’t have identical roles — Saad certainly is more of a two-way player — but the gap in production is hard to overlook.

Brandon Saad (20) in front of the net Saturday during the Blackhawk's 4-1 victory over the Blue Jackets. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Given coach Joel Quenneville’s frustration of late with Saad’s production, is there any question the Hawks “lost” the trade?

“Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table,” Saad said. “We’re different players. He’s a great player around the league. You can see [from] his highlights and his goals, he’s definitely a special player. But at the end of the day, I’ve got confidence in my abilities, too.”

Saad had his only 30-goal season in Columbus, in 2015-16. Panarin won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie that season and reached the 30-goal mark in back-to-back campaigns, the strength of his on-ice bond with Patrick Kane seemingly more evident by the game.

Anyone who wondered if Panarin could thrive without Kane has long since set that aside.

“Now that he’s here, he seems like he has the puck more,” Quenneville said. “And with it, something good usually comes out of it. He’s been able to generate a line here on his own and obviously be a lot to handle for the opponent. Give [him] some credit that he’s progressively improved his game.”

Nick Schmaltz was wowed in his one season playing with Panarin with the Hawks.

“I definitely saw this coming,” he said. “I think he was one of the best players in the league when he was in Chicago.”

No goal

Corey Crawford had a strong night in goal, but he might have caught a break in the first period when an apparent power-play score by the Blue Jackets’ Boone Jenner was waved off. Jenner was cited for pushing Crawford’s blocker, which was covering the puck, over the goal line with the blade of his stick.

The proper call? Perhaps, though it’s questionable whether Crawford had control of the puck as Boone went fishing for it.

Nobody’s perfect

Linemates Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat came in having each tallied at least a point in six consecutive games to open the season. That brought them within one game of the last Hawks duo, Steve Larmer and Adam Creighton, to take such a streak to seven to open a season. Alas, despite DeBrincat’s first-period goal, his joint streak with Toews ended as the latter failed to dent the scoresheet.

Crawford shines in 4-1 victory against Blue Jackets
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Point made

Kane’s third-period assist on Marcus Kruger’s goal was his 49th career point against Columbus, the most by any Hawks player. Patrick Sharp had 48 points against the Blue Jackets. A beautiful late goal and an empty-netter to follow upped Kane’s total to 51.