The Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin Show continued Sunday as the Chicago Blackhawks topped the Calgary Flames, 4-1, for their second win in two nights. The Hawks now enter the circus trip building some momentum, and once again, it's thanks to a line that's proving to be one of the best in the NHL.
Kane scored his league-leading 13th goal and Panarin extended his lead in the rookie point race with a score of his own in another dominant effort by the second line. It's becoming a running theme for the Blackhawks that, even if the other players seemingly can't get going, Kane and Panarin will find a way. At a certain point, we're going to have to wonder whether there's another line in the league boasting as much talent on the wings. And that's not to take away from center Artem Anisimov, either, because he's been fantastic.
And unlike we've seen over the past few weeks, the second line actually got some help Sunday with Marian Hossa's second goal of the season. The 36-year-old finally snapped his cold spell with a much-needed score. Hopefully it's a sign that his shooting percentage, which was ridiculously low entering the night, will begin to get back to a more sustainable level.
The Flames actually opened the scoring early in the second period when David Jones beat Scott Darling in front of the net for a greasy goal. It seemed to light a fire under the Hawks, however, as the team began pushing aggressively and eventually piled three goals on Karri Ramo in less than two minutes. It was the kind of dominant stretch we haven't seen from the Hawks often this season. For a few minutes, the Flames were completely floored by everything Chicago threw at them and it totally turned the tides of the game.
That allowed the Hawks to take a 3-1 lead into the third period, where they played their customary high-quality defense to finish off the victory. Jonathan Toews scored an empty-net dagger in the final minute to clinch the win.
Chicago is now 10-7-1 this season entering the circus trip next week. The Flames drop to 6-12-1 as a frustrating season shows no signs of turning around.
ONE, TWO, TREE THOUGHTS
Hossa's puck luck
It's probably worth remembering how Hossa's shooting progressed during the 2014-15 season.
First 26 games: 3 goals, 3.9 shooting percentage
Last 56 games: 19 goals, 11.2 shooting percentage
Right now, it looks like Hossa's numbers might play out in a similar way this season. Hossa scored just his second goal of the season on Sunday even though his shot rate is almost identical to last season and his "shot through percentage" -- which describes the percentage of shot attempts that actually get on goal -- is up, too. So really the only thing that's held Hossa back this season has been an unusually low shooting percentage, and as we saw last season, that probably won't keep up. Hossa scored tonight, and going forward, he should keep scoring more than he has.
Kane, Panarin and BEARS OH MY
That's not even a good joke, I just don't even know what else to say about the Hawks' second-line wingers at this point. Kane is playing on another level, extending his point streak to 13 games and his goal streak to seven. The 26-year-old now leads the NHL in both goals (13) and points (28). Panarin, meanwhile, has racked up 18 points in 18 games to lead all first-year players. The only rookie who is even close to the Russian forward is the Coyotes' Max Domi, who has a 21.1 shooting percentage and an even strength Corsi relative of minus-11.3 percent. Panarin is CLEARLY the best rookie in the NHL right now. I've been hedging my bets against the comment long enough. There's not a better NHL player making his debut right now than Panarin.
There's the Darling we remembered
Scott Darling had a great start to the 2015-16 season by saving 28 of 29 chances in a win over the Islanders. Over the next two-plus games, he posted an ugly .851 save percentage. So it was definitely encouraging to see the big goaltender come out Sunday and deliver a quality effort with 24 saves in 25 attempts to earn another win. Darling got help from a solid defensive effort and didn't exactly stand on his head, but it was a steady, solid effort between the pipes for a player who could use it. The Blackhawks need Darling to be a quality backup behind Corey Crawford and on Sunday he was back to filling that role.