Tyler Motte

The Buzzer: Perlini does it again; Rooney steps up for Devils

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Three stars

1. Brendan Perlini, Chicago Blackhawks 

The Blackhawks have won four straight and Perlini has played a pivotal role in the past two games, scoring a hat trick against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday and then producing a one-goal, two-assist performance on Wednesday to help lead the Blackhawks to a nail-biting 5-4 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs

Perlini’s goal was the second of a four-goal first period for the Blackhawks and he made a slick cross-ice pass to Alex DeBrincat to put the Blackhawks up 5-0 in the second frame.

Collin Delia gets an honorable mention here, and deservedly so. He faced 29 third-period shots and stopped 26 after coming in completely cold with Corey Crawford succumbing to the flu after the second period.

2. Kevin Rooney, New Jersey Devils

New Jersey needed someone to step up after their ugly 9-4 loss a night earlier. Kevin Rooney was one of six Devils to score in the game, and he also added an assist for a two-point night. The 25-year-old rookie has three goals in his past six games and is seeing more ice time now with all of New Jersey’s missing players.

3. Tyler Motte, Vancouver Canucks

Neither the Canucks nor the New York Rangers have much more than pride to play for heading down the home stretch here — neither are going to taste the postseason. But pride is what Motte gave the Canucks on Wednesday, scoring twice in a 4-1 win to snap a 15-game drought. Oh, and he scored both of his markers in an 11-second span.

Highlights of the night

Perfectly placed pass:

All by himself:

This was just well placed:

Stretch pass and one heck of a finish:

Factoids

Scores

Blackhawks 5, Maple Leafs 4
Devils 6, Oilers 3
Canucks 4, Rangers 1


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

‘Bread’ is the man in playoff surge for the Blue Jackets

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Artemi Panarin turned out to be everything the Columbus Blue Jackets were looking for when they traded for him last summer: A dead-eye sniper and deft puck distributor who can get game-breaking goals and make everyone around him better.

And, the Blue Jackets hope, a guy who can get them deeper into the playoffs.

So far, so good. Columbus heads home to Nationwide Arena after taking a 2-0 lead over Washington in their first-round series on Sunday night, a come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win in which Panarin contributed a pair of key assists.

That came three nights after Panarin won the series opener in overtime. With two assists already in regulation, he drove down the left side, slipped past Capitals defenseman Dimitry Orlov and snapped a shot over goalie Philipp Grubauer‘s shoulder.

”There’s very few people who can make that shot,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said.

”He can make a play from nothing,” Orlov said. ”He’s so smooth.”

The Blue Jackets probably wouldn’t be playing in the postseason without the 26-year-old Russian they call the ”Bread Man.” He was a steady presence and consistent scorer through a bumpy season of slumps and injuries to other key players.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Panarin led Columbus with 27 goals and 55 assists, and his 82 points were the most in a single season in franchise history. His plus/minus of 23 and average of just over 20 minutes on the ice per game were career highs.

Panarin – sounds like Panera Bread, hence the hockey nickname of ”Bread Man” or just ”Bread” – has embraced being a featured star after playing in the large shadow of Patrick Kane in Chicago in his first two years in the league.

”In Chicago, I played with Kane and got a lot of assists from him,” Panarin said. ”But I always wanted something more, to put more of the game on myself and be more accountable for the result. Here, I got that, what I wanted.”

Panarin, who won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL in 2015-16, was acquired from the Black Hawks last June along with forward Tyler Motte for forward Brandon Saad and goalie Anton Forsberg. Saad was a reliable player for Columbus for two seasons.

”Bread is a different type player because he can make a special play to win a game,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. ”I just think for you to get through and find your way and try to be a better playoff team, you have to have some players that are dynamic. You’re not coaching it, they just see something, they seize a moment and they win you a game. Or they make a huge play to get you back in the game in another way.”

With the Blue Jackets on a power play and down 3-2 in the second period on Sunday, Panarin dribbled the puck and patiently waited for a lane to open up before delivering a pinpoint circle-to-circle pass to Cam Atkinson , who scored the tying goal.

Panarin’s line mates, veteran winger Atkinson and 19-year-old rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois, have benefited from his skills. Atkinson – who had two goals on Sunday – has come on strong after missing time with injuries, finishing the regular season with 14 goals and 14 assists in February and March. Dubois had 20 goals and 28 assists in the regular season, making him the most productive rookie in Blue Jackets history.

Panarin makes $6 million a year on a contract that runs through next season. He’ll be due a sizeable salary bump if the Blue Jackets decide to keep him around after that.

So far, he’s been an ideal fit.

”When they first traded me, of course for a couple days, I worried,” he said. ”But then I calmed down and understood that this is all good for me. I understood that here I would progress as a player first and foremost. What’s most important to me isn’t money, but the whole game.”

Associated Press Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno in Washington contributed to this report.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Vanek acquisition has paid huge dividends for Blue Jackets

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When the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that they had acquired Thomas Vanek from the Vancouver Canucks, many immediately began to wonder how a relationship with demanding head coach John Tortorella would work. Not only has the partnership worked out just fine, Vanek has thrived as a member of the Jackets.

Vanek failed to register a point in his first four games with his new team, but he’s been terrific since then. The 34-year-old has picked up seven goals and seven assists (five primary) in his last 11 outings. With him in the lineup, they’ve gone 12-3-0, which has allowed them to move back into third place in the Metro.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

The veteran has moved around a lot over the last five years (he’s suited up for eight teams during that stretch), but he finally appears to be comfortable in his current situation with a coach that not many people expected him to survive with.

His advanced stats would also suggest that he’s fit in really well with the Blue Jackets. He has a CF% over 50 (51.54 percent) for the first time since the 2010-11 season when he was a member of the Buffalo Sabres. His FF% is also higher than it’s ever been at 54.85 percent and when he’s on the ice, 85 percent of the goals scored are scored by Columbus. Yes, this is a small sample size, but this is a story about his immediate impact.

That’s some valuable production from a player that GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t even have to give up a draft pick for. Instead, he sent 23-year-old forward Tyler Motte and veteran journeyman Jussi Jokinen to the Canucks in exchange for Vanek. Motte has one goal in 13 games, while Jokinen has a respectable five points in 10 contests.

Of course, it’s also important to realize that Vanek’s current totals probably aren’t sustainable. His sky-high 1.129 PDO suggests that his numbers will regress at a certain point, but even that won’t take away from the contributions he’s made over his last 15 games.

We all know that he’s the kind of player that will look awesome for stretches and invisible during long periods of time, but all the Jackets have to do is ride the wave as long as they can.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Poll: Will the ‘Hawks regret trading Panarin?

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This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT…

After being swept by the Nashville Predators in the opening round of the playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks made some pretty significant changes to their roster.

Scott Darling, who would have likely walked in free agency, was traded to Carolina, while Niklas Hjalmarsson, Artemi Panarin and Marcus Kruger were also traded away. On top of that, a strange allergy will keep Marian Hossa out of the lineup all season, so that’s another player who won’t suit up for them in 2017-18.

The Hjalmarsson and Panarin deals were both surprising, but there’s no denying that the Panarin deal probably hurt Blackhawks fans the most. After all, he scored at least 30 goals in each of his first two seasons and he put up 77 and 74 points.

The 25-year-old was a fixture on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov. More often than not, the trio was Chicago’s most dangerous and dynamic line.

The whole trade was pretty interesting. Chicago shipped Panarin, prospect Tyler Motte and a sixth-round pick in 2017 to Columbus for former ‘Hawk Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round pick in 2018.

As dynamic as the young Russian is, Saad is no slouch either. The ‘Hawks drafted the 24-year-old in the second round  of the 2011 draft. Since he entered the league in 2012, he’s surpassed the 20-goal goal mark three times, including a 31-goal season back in 2015-16.

Each player’s contract situation also played a factor in this deal. Both make $6 million per season, but Panarin has two years left on his deal while Saad is under contract for four more years.

Although these two players are different, it appears as though this is a trade that makes sense for both sides. Chicago may have traded the “shiftier” player away, but Saad can create offense too, and the fact that he’s under contract for two extra years is also a plus.

Still, there are plenty of people who think the ‘Hawks made a mistake by making this trade.

How do you feel about this transaction? Vote in the poll below and feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section.

Wild trades center Jordan Schroeder to Blue Jackets

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired center Jordan Schroeder in a trade with the Minnesota Wild.

In exchange for the 26-year-old Schroeder, the Wild on Friday got minor-league center Dante Salituro.

Schroeder played in 37 games for the Wild last season, recording six goals and seven assists. He has 17 goals and 23 assists in 144 career NHL games with the Wild and Vancouver Canucks since making his NHL debut in 2012-13.

It was the second trade of the day announced by the Blue Jackets. They also got forward Artemi Panarin, minor-league forward Tyler Motte, a draft pick for forward Brandon Saad, minor-league goaltender Anton Forsberg and a 2018 draft pick.