By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) Blackhawks winger Artemi Panarin netted a hat trick Wednesday night, including a late empty-netter to seal Chicago’s 5-3 road win over the New York Rangers. It was the Rangers’ first home loss since Dec. 20, and the Blackhawks have now won two games in a row as they head into their Stadium Series game on Sunday against the Wild in Minneapolis.
Also scoring for Chicago were Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw. Here are the shorties of the night.
Shaw me the way: Shaw had one of his finest games of the season. The little winger who won’t say die was all over the place, especially in the first period.
Every game that goes by, Shaw proves that he can indeed play in the top six. What started as a stopgap has become a solution. I still believe the Hawks should and will seek an upgrade, but Shaw’s more than just a grinder benefiting from his linemates. He’s making plays happen on his own.
So, what does that mean for his future in Chicago?
Shaw will be a restricted free agent this summer, meaning the Hawks can match any other team’s offer. His current cap hit is $2 million. I don’t see a way he doesn’t get a raise, and I don’t see a way the Hawks can afford to pay him more than that.
I think Shaw’s a prime candidate for an offseason trade. Panarin and Teuvo Teravainen are due new contracts after next year, while Brent Seabrook and Artem Anisimov have their new money kicking in.
Combine that with the fact that the cap could very well stagnate or even go down, and Shaw could well be the odd man out.
Perhaps he’d take a hometown discount, but if I were Chicago general manager Stan Bowman, I wouldn’t be holding my breath.
Get on the bus, Gus?: Young defenseman Erik Gustafsson returned to the lineup for the Blackhawks on Wednesday, and man, was it an adventure. After a really promising start, he has sort of stalled out. He’s not getting worse, per se, but he’s not really getting better either.
Initially, I felt that Viktor Svedberg’s recent look was a showcase situation — as in, showing him off to the league in hopes of trading him. Now, I’m wondering if they’re concerned about Gustafsson’s recent performance.
There’s no need to call Gustafsson a bust by any means. He’s been really, really good for the majority of the season, but it seems he may have hit a rookie wall. We’ll know for sure soon. His ice time will tell the story.
Trade rumblings: During the first intermission, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported on possible trade targets. He confirmed the worst kept secret in hockey — the Hawks want a left winger.
McKenzie highlighted four players: Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd, Arizona’s Mikkel Boedker, Boston’s Loui Eriksson and Carolina’s Eric Staal.
Ladd is the Hawks’ preferred acquisition. He’s the player they’re chasing the hardest, but as I’ve said/tweeted before, many other teams want him as well.
He does have a no trade clause, which would tell me that he has the right to decide where he might play. That’s great news for the Blackhawks. Ladd wants a Stanley Cup. He’s familiar with the system, team, players and coaches. It’s really an ideal fit, both for the Blackhawks and Ladd.
If the Hawks can’t swing a trade for Ladd, any of those other names will suffice as secondary options. My preference is Boedker, who’s a fast and skilled left winger who could really thrive with elite linemates like Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
Teuvo tallying: It seems as if the monkey is off Teravainen’s back. After scoring late in the Hawks’ 7-2 win over the Maple Leafs on Monday, he added a pair of beautiful assists Wednesday.
It was one hell of a slump — 18 games without a goal and 10 games without a point. That’s bad. Linemates Philip Danault and Andrew Desjardins aren’t exactly the scoring type, but you’d think Teravainen would have lucked into a point or two over that span.
Regardless, it looks like his game and confidence have returned.
Outshot, again: Despite the loss, the Rangers outshot the Blackhawks, 34-20. When the Blackhawks were really at their peak (2010, 2013, etc.) in this era, perhaps their most underrated attribute was their collective ability to suppress opponent shots. Night after night, the Hawks would outshoot and out-Corsi their opponents.
Over the last two seasons, that hasn’t been the case.
This season, the Hawks have been outshot in 44 percent of their games (27 of 61).
Of course, shots don’t tell the whole story, so if we take a look at the Hawks’ five-on-five even strength Corsi close rating (Corsi while a game is within one goal either way), it’s 51.4 percent. That’s not a terrible number by any means, but it’s Chicago’s lowest in any regular season since 2007-’08.
This is disturbing trend and another reason I think the Hawks should try to upgrade their defense if possible. Of course, adding a defensive-minded forward like Ladd would help in shot suppression as well. Like I said — he’s a perfect fit.
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast with James Neveau of NBCChicago.comthat you can listen and subscribe to here. Follow him on Twitter at@JayZawaski670.