Without hitting the ice, the Blackhawks (now 50-23-8 with a 4-0 loss in Anaheim Thursday) managed to clinch first place in the division and conference last Saturday thanks to Minnesota‘s loss to Nashville.
This is the Hawk’s 16th division title in franchise history and its second time landing the conference lead–the first was the 2012-2013 season.
Chicago’s been 11-5-3 since March 1, with star power making the significant difference.
Panarin was named the NHL’s first star of the week with five goals and one assist in four games for the week ending April 2 and considered a major factor in helping the Blackhawks clinch first place in the Western Conference.
- He tallied one goal in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning March 27.
- Two days later, he had one goal and one assist in a 5-1 victory over reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Panarin contributed 2 out of three goals in a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
- On April 2, he scored one goal when the Hawks fell 3-2 to Boston.
He had 73 points (30 goals and 43 assists) in 80 games this season, with the 30-goal mark serving as a franchise record.
Artemi Panarin: 1st player in #Blackhawks history with 30+ Goals each of first 2 NHL seasons (partial or full seasons)
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 5, 2017
Here’s a glimpse at last year:
His second 30-goal season surpasses the franchises’ previous leaders Jonathan Toews, Rich Preston, Denis Savard, and Darryl Sutter. Since 1995, the only other NHL players to do so are Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Alexander Ovechkin.
Beyond those honors, the forward coined “Breadman” could have a lot of dough heading his way, especially if he finishes in the top 10 of forwards in points, goals, assists, or points per game. That would put another $1.275 million in the 25-year-old’s pockets. This is both his second year in the league and his second year tallying 70-plus points.
It’s no surprise Kane was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Month for March. He ranked second in the NHL with 10 goals and 12 assists in 16 games, contributing to the Blackhawks’ 11-3-2 record for the month and ultimately clinching the ninth-consecutive playoff birth.
In 12 of the 16 games, he tallied one or more points. He had multiple points in seven of those matchups, including his fourth-career hat trick March 1 versus Pittsburgh and two other three-point outings.
He’s ranked second in the league with 34 goals and 54 assists for 88 points in 81 games this season.
Of course, both veteran and rookie players have been making exciting contributions and the team has been rotating the roster as they head into the postseason.
The Blackhawks play the L.A. Kings at 5 p.m CT Saturday.