Shortly before the puck dropped between the Blackhawks and Blues on Sunday night, reports spread that the first-place Minnesota Wild were acquiring Martin Hanzal, one of the top centers on the trade market, to load up for the playoffs.
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman always says he doesn’t make trades in response to other teams’ moves. And the way the Hawks have been playing lately, he might not need to.
Artem Anisimov scored off an Artemi Panarin feed with 5:20 left in the game to give the Hawks a 4-2 victory over St. Louis. The win — the Hawks’ fourth straight and ninth in their last 10 games — moved them to within one point of the Wild, who are on their bye week and have three games in hand. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each had a goal and an assist, and Scott Darling made 30 saves — including a big one early in the third and another with less than two minutes to go — in a spot start because Corey Crawford was sick. The Hawks also were without Niklas Hjalmarsson, and won anyway.
Before the game, Jonathan Toews compared Nick Schmaltz to Patrick Kane and Richard Panik to Marian Hossa. Hyperbole? Perhaps. But they’ve been playing like it lately, and they stayed red hot on Sunday, combining on the first goal of the game. Schmaltz fired a pass between Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson’s skates to find Toews, who made a nice move to beat Jake Allen for the 1-0 lead.
Toews, who added an assist later, has nine goals and 14 assists in his last 14 games, climbing back to his career average of 0.86 points per game after his frustrating start. Panik has six goals and nine assists in those 14 games, and Schmaltz has three goals and seven assists in his last eight games.
Patrick Kane has been lighting it up lately, too, and he scored his ninth goal in 10 games, snapping a shot past Allen after executing a give-and-go with Toews. Duncan Keith had the secondary assist on the goal, giving him 500 points in his career.
But a Trevor van Riemsdyk turnover in his own zone led directly to a Magnus Paajarvi goal at 16:54 of the first, and the complexion of the game changed entirely. And with van Riemsdyk in the penalty box for a high stick midway through the second period, Alex Pietrangelo, trailing the rush, beat Scott Darling from the slot to tie it at 2-2.
But Panarin found Anisimov with a beautiful pass to the doorstep at 14:40, and Tanner Kero added an empty-netter.