Nick Schmaltz

Associated Press

The Buzzer: McElhinney with the McShutout, Schenn scores again

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Players of the Night: 

Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs:

McElhinney turned aside all 41 shots that came his way as the Leafs shutout the Edmonton Oilers 1-0. The Leafs backup improved to 3-2-0 on the season and his save percentage jumped from .900 to 9.25. Toronto has now won three straight and six of their past 10.

Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues:

Schenn notched his sixth goal in his past four games and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games with a goal 40 seconds into the game. The Blues are now winners of four straight and six of their past 10.

Eric Stall, Minnesota Wild & Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: 

Both scored twice for their respective teams in an entertaining 4-3 win for the Wild in overtime.

Highlight of the Night: 

Vladimir Tarasenko catches the Sabres defense sleeping in overtime, scoring his first non-empty net goal in nine games:

Factoid of the Night: 

Patrick Kane didn’t score, but his two assists were instrumental in giving the Chicago Blackhawks a victory on Sunday.

Scores: 

Blackhawks 3, Coyotes 1

Blues 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

Maple Leafs 1, Oilers 0

Wild 4, Sharks 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Crawford helps backstop Blackhawks to strong start

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With the Chicago Blackhawks off to a 3-0-1 start, players like Brandon Saad and Alex DeBrincat have been able to grab headlines for their individual feats so far.

Back with Chicago after two seasons in Columbus and this offseason’s blockbuster trade, the 24-year-old Saad already has a hat trick — on the night the Blackhawks put up 10 against the Pittsburgh Penguins — and five goals and seven points in four games.

After making the roster out of training camp, DeBrincat scored his first career NHL goal the other night versus Montreal, and then had a beautiful set up on another goal as Chicago recorded the win — fresh off an overtime loss the previous night in Toronto.

What shouldn’t be overlooked is the play of goalie Corey Crawford through his first three starts. He has allowed only one goal in each of his three games and was particularly good in Montreal with a 41-save performance — on another night when the Blackhawks were badly outshot. So far, the Blackhawks have the fourth worst Corsi For rating at five-on-five, per Corsica. Yet, they are second in goals scored with 21 and have allowed only seven goals against.

While the offense has enjoyed a rapid start to the season, Crawford has certainly done his part in goal. The Blackhawks were badly outshot in the first period versus Montreal, and still came out with the lead. He was busy again in the third period, but shut the door and Chicago held on for the win.

“We all know the importance of goaltending,” coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Tribune earlier this season. “It puts you in a good spot. We know the value of getting off to a strong start is huge and I think goaltending is extremely important to start the season.”

The Blackhawks return home tonight to face their division rivals, the Minnesota Wild. Crawford is expected to get the start in net, while Nick Schmaltz is expected to be out of the lineup tonight, but could return Saturday against Nashville.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Anisimov adjusting to new linemates in Chicago

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The only constant when it comes to Joel Quenneville’s line combinations with the Chicago Blackhawks is that they are always going to change.

A lot.

The one exception to that over the past couple of seasons has been the second line of Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin, a truly dynamic trio that could take over any game at any time. But with Panarin now playing in Columbus following an offseason trade to reacquire Brandon Saad even that line has been broken apart.

Instead of skating alongside Kane, Anisimov has spent the preseason skating next to Ryan Hartman and a rotation of Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Sharp on the team’s third line.

He talked about that experience this weekend, via CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.

“It’s been good, actually,” Anisimov said. “Every time it’s a challenge, you know? It’s hard to play without those two guys, but you have to adapt to situations and I can play with every player. I’ll try to do my best with any player on the team.”

Replacing Anisimov alongside Kane has been 21-year-old Nick Schmaltz. If he ends up sticking on that line for any reasonable amount of time it should help to boost his production a little bit.

Dropping Anisimov down to his own line could, in theory, help to stretch out the Blackhawks’ depth a little bit and not make them quite as top heavy. If he ends up playing on a line with a young standout like Debrincat — who absolutely should make the roster — it could help create a pretty dynamic third line … assuming Anisimov is able to maintain his current level of production away from Kane and Panarin.

Anisimov has played the best hockey of his career with the Blackhawks (averaging more than 20 goals and 45 points each year) but he has also been surrounded by some pretty high-end talent. Debrincat has the look of a potential star, and Sharp has been a high-level player in the past, so it’s not like he is going to be dragging around some anchors. But it is still a pretty significant change.

Of course, given how much the Blackhawks juggle their lines it is probably only a matter of time until he ends up back alongside Kane anyway.

Blackhawks need a push from young forwards Hartman, Schmaltz

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This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT…

The Chicago Blackhawks got an injection of youth into their group of forwards last season, with Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman cracking the roster out of training camp.

Having prospects challenging for and earning roster spots is critical for every team across the league, especially with the speed of today’s game.

The Blackhawks have three Stanley Cup championships since 2010, all won with a core group of players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

But that group, which hasn’t made it out of the first round since 2015, is getting older, which highlights Chicago’s need for its young players like Schmaltz and Hartman to further their offensive contributions this upcoming season and beyond, and for someone like Alex DeBrincat to show well at camp and perhaps earn a spot in the NHL.

There is added pressure on a player like Toews heading into next season, after the lowest goal total of his career. How will Patrick Sharp perform back with this group at age 35? The Blackhawks also won’t have Marian Hossa, which, despite his age, is a huge loss.

That should highlight the need for Hartman, 22, and Schmaltz, 21, to take another step forward in their development.

In 76 games, Hartman had a nice 19-goal, 31-point campaign, his first full season in the NHL. His production dried up in the playoffs, though in fairness to him, the Blackhawks as a team were ultimately outmatched as Pekka Rinne played sensational in goal for Nashville and the Predators completed the sweep.

The 20th overall pick in 2014, Schmaltz played in 61 games for Chicago. His season included a stint in Rockford, where he had a productive six goals and nine points in 12 games before getting recalled to the NHL.

From the time of his recall until the end of the regular season, Schmaltz was able to put together a couple of extended hot streaks, with 12 points in nine games during a stretch from Feb. 8 to March 1, and seven points in six games from March 19-29. Again, Chicago’s brief time in the playoffs was a struggle and Schmaltz wasn’t immune.

There was a point late in the season, however, when coach Joel Quenneville believed Schmaltz made the proper steps forward. Of note, Quenneville has the option of using Schmaltz either on the wing or up the middle, he said earlier this summer.

“There’s definitely a learning curve when you first come into the NHL. Expectations are higher for some guys than others. But him getting down and getting some games [in Rockford], getting more confident offensively and with the puck, he added a little pace and another dimension to his game, we like how he’s playing during this recent stretch,” Quenneville told CSN Chicago.

“We like how he’s handled himself in a situation where, as the season’s gone on here, he’s gone to a different level.”

It would be one less thing for the Blackhawks to worry about if Schmaltz and Hartman took their games to a different level beginning in October.

Could the ‘Hawks be forced to move Anisimov?

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The question has become an annual tradition in Chicago:

Who are we going to lose this summer?

Seemingly every offseason, GM Stan Bowman is tasked with getting his team cap compliant, which usually means jettisoning a significant player (or two). Last year, it was Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen. The summer prior to that, it was Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad.

This year Scott Darling has already been sent to Carolina, and Bowman still has work to do. Could that include shipping out Artem Anisimov, one of the key pieces acquired in the Saad trade?

More, from the Chicago Tribune:

Anisimov has been rumored to be on the block given his reasonable contract and good production the last few years.

And the Hawks may believe they have potential second-line centers in Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero to play between Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.

Anisimov, who turns 29 this month, just wrapped the first of a five-year, $22.75 million deal with a $4.55M average annual cap hit. That’s pretty good value for a guy that’s thrived offensively next to Kane and Panarin — this year, Anisimov scored a career-best 45 points, despite only playing in 64 games.

Had he stayed healthy and played all 82, he’s looking at close to 60 points.

Anisimov has a no-movement clause and, beginning in ’18-19, a modified no-trade (in which he can list up to 10 teams he can be traded to).

There have been other options floated in Chicago, of course. Many have pointed to Marcus Kruger — who makes $3.08M annually — as a candidate to be moved, and there’s been talk about trying to offload the remainder of Marian Hossa‘s contract (which runs through 2021).

The catch is that Anisimov would likely net a much higher return than Kruger or Hossa. Centers of his caliber, and with his cap hit, have pretty good value across the league. Getting something quality in return could be a necessity for Bowman, who vowed to make the team better after a disappointing playoff exit.