James O'Brien

Panarin powers Blackhawks past Penguins … again


Two nights, two wins for the Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins … and Artemi Panarin scored the clinching goal in both victories.

Panarin also managed two goals in each of the past two evenings, with this performance powering the Blackhawks to a 3-1 win against the Penguins.

(You can watch video for both Panarin goals here. The first one is especially impressive.)

Patrick Kane factored into his linemates’ successes, too, with an assist on Wednesday and two helpers on Tuesday.

With this win, the Blackhawks are now on a five-game winning streak, prompting people to wonder if they’re “back.” They carried much of the play in this contest, and while Marc-Andre Fleury managed to keep the Pens in it during the shakier moments, Chicago would not be denied.

The Blackhawks have a ways to go to take the Central Division lead, yet with a six-point gap to close, they’re no longer so far behind the Dallas Stars that a race seems like a formality.

Pittsburgh settles for a single standings point spread over two games, and even though there were signs of progress – Sidney Crosby looked like, well, Sidney Crosby – there were signs of frustration late in this loss.

More fireworks to come? Penguins reportedly still in trade market


Wednesday stands as a rare day of splashy trades, but especially insatiable types might ask, “Who’s next?”

The Pittsburgh Penguins are showing serious signs of improvement under new head coach Mike Sullivan, but they’re not necessarily done making enhancements.

Darren Dreger reports that the Penguins are sniffing around for a possible upgrade at forward or on defense.

Granted, almost every team wants to land upgrades in those groups, especially if the price is right. Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen emphatically states that it’s tough to trade for a blueliner, for one.

Still, on a night like this, such ideas gain quite a bit of credibility.

What kind of pieces should Penguins GM Jim Rutheford seek out, and what should he be willing to give up?

As a reminder, you obviously have to give something to get something, so … here’s another Kekalainen gem:

Video: Panarin dances around Penguins for pretty goal

1 Comment

A day after a well-matched thriller, the Chicago Blackhawks are taking it to the Pittsburgh Penguins early on, and they have a 1-0 lead to show for it.

Artemi Panarin emerged from relative anonymity to be a fantastic complement to Patrick Kane, but every now and then people might wonder if he’s merely a passenger. The goal above makes a strong argument that he can hold his own, too.

Watch as the play develops from “Chicago’s doing a nice job keeping this sequence alive” to “Panarin’s dancing around an increasingly befuddled group of Penguins.” An NBCSN replay revealed that the Blackhawks kept it in Pittsburgh’s zone for more than a minute.

It’s a sight to behold, and it’s fitting that Panarin tied Dylan Larkin for the rookie goals lead with his 14th goal, as Larkin’s authored a recent beauty as well.

Update: Panarin added another goal, giving him four goals in two games (and possibly counting).

Seth Jones sheds some shadows, readies for ‘big role’ in Columbus


One of the many remarkable things about the very remarkable Seth JonesRyan Johansen trade is just how young the two players are.

Jones is just 21, while Johansen’s only 23. It’s plausible that the trade may be assessed for more than a decade.

More than a few people view it as a long-term win for the Blue Jackets, and maybe a lopsided one.

In other words, Columbus front office members aren’t being totally facetious when they say that the move wasn’t about the seemingly deteriorating relationship between Johansen and John Tortorella.

There are plenty of numbers that argue that Jones is already the kind of difference-maker the Blue Jackets sorely need on the blueline.

But that age number – seriously, just 21 – is the most intriguing. Especially when you consider the fact that he’s been playing a supporting role behind Shea Weber and Roman Josi, possibly for the right amount of time to break through at a more natural pace.

The Blue Jackets certainly seem excited about acquiring him, and his fascinatingly high ceiling.

“Seth Jones is a big, skilled defenseman who has the potential to be an elite performer in this league for many years to come,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He has tremendous skill with the puck, sees the ice extremely well and has the ability to shut down the opposition as well. We believe he will be an anchor on the blueline for our team for many years to come.”

How do you think we’ll look back at this trade years from now, whether it be five, 10 … or more?

Johansen, Blue Jackets insist trade wasn’t about Torts


If the (perceived?) rift between John Tortorella and Ryan Johansen factored into the blockbuster trade that propelled Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets, then the sides are doing their part to keep that private.

Publicly, both Johansen and his now-former-team are denying that seemingly strained relationship as the catalyst for a move.

Johansen said all the right things about Torts during a conference call following the trade (which shocked many in the hockey world, but apparently not him).

Interestingly, TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Johansen never asked for a trade, even with a lot of drama going on this season.

Either way, Johansen is clearly excited to join the Predators.

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen emphasized that this was about getting a potential blue chip defenseman in Jones, not about hard feelings between Columbus’ former No. 1 center and Tortorella.

Many believe that the Blue Jackets won this deal, citing Jones’ strong possession numbers and potential to really grow into a more prominent role in Columbus. Kekalainen clearly believes Jones could be a go-to guy for the Blue Jackets.

Predators GM David Poile discussed the move, which you can watch in the video below.