Blackhawks

As Eddie Olczyk battles, Hockey Fights Cancer hits home for Blackhawks

As Eddie Olczyk battles, Hockey Fights Cancer hits home for Blackhawks

There are times when moments hit you harder than normal. For the Blackhawks, given color analyst Eddie Olczyk’s battle with colon cancer, hosting Hockey Fights Cancer on Monday night had that much more significance.

Olczyk was part of the Blackhawks’ Hockey Fights Cancer pregame ceremony on Monday, dropping the ceremonial puck with 9-year-old Mount Prospect native Lauren Graver, who is battling rhabdomyosarcoma (a rare muscle cancer). Olczyk had his latest round of chemotherapy on Monday morning, which includes going home with a portable pump for additional chemotherapy over 48 hours.

For the Blackhawks, Olczyk’s fight has been inspiring.

“Obviously it’s tough news when you hear that about Edzo but it seems like he’s been doing good and been fighting it really hard,” Patrick Kane said. “It’s always good to see him around the rink. We know he’s battling and some days might be tougher than others, but he seems to show up and be around the rink and talk hockey with the guys. So it’s fun to see him around and he’s a great man. Obviously we wish him the best, too.”

Olczyk was diagnosed with colon cancer in August. He’s made periodic analyst appearances this season, beginning with the Blackhawks’ game at St. Louis on Oct. 18. His latest game was Wednesday when the Blackhawks traveled to Tampa.

“We see him on the road, we’ve seen him here. It’s a great night around the league to raise awareness for cancer and I’ve been able to talk to him a little bit,” Ryan Hartman said. “He looks great. He’s been able to broadcast a lot more games than I thought he was going to be able to and it’s good to see him around.”

Coach Joel Quenneville, speaking of the various Hockey Fights Cancer nights around the league, said, “it’s been great moments throughout the month, great reflecting on who it’s touched and the people you’re familiar with who are dealing with it. I think immediately of Edzo. Every game, in each market, everyone has their people. The NHL does a great job of making sure that these type of situations, the awareness and support is there.”

Why Vinnie Hinostroza has been a hidden gem for Blackhawks

vinnie_hinostroza.jpg
USA TODAY

Why Vinnie Hinostroza has been a hidden gem for Blackhawks

When looking back on the 2017-18 season, it's easy to single out Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz as the two most notable silver linings for the Blackhawks, both of whom showed real promise as important pieces going forward.

But lost in the shuffle — or quietly flying under the radar — has been Vinnie Hinostroza, in part because he started the year in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs when he probably didn't deserve to.

"Obviously I wanted to start off the year here, but going down there, I knew that if I played well I'd be back up here and that's what they told me leaving camp," Hinostroza said. "I got to go down there, play a lot of minutes, play in every situation. I learned a lot and I think it helped my game."

It was perhaps more-so a numbers game, and Hinostroza was a guy the Blackhawks could send to Rockford without having to go through the waiver process. It also wasn't the worst thing for his long-term development.

Not surprisingly, Hinostroza flourished with the IceHogs by averaging nearly a point-per-game with nine goals and 13 assists in 23 games. He was more than ready to be promoted.

It just took a while because the Blackhawks were carrying the maximum amount of skaters (23) and there weren't any injuries to open up a spot.

Eventually, the Blackhawks decided they couldn't ignore his offensive production any longer and placed Tanner Kero on waivers — which he cleared — to make room for Hinostroza, who was recalled on Dec. 8.

And when he finally got his chance with the big club, Hinostroza took advantage.

He set career-highs in all three scoring categories with seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 50 games despite having only two points in the final 15 contests.

The underlying numbers supported his value, too.

When Hinostroza was on the ice at even strength, the Blackhawks controlled 54.57 percent of the shot attempts and had a high-danger Goals For percentage of 58.33, according to naturalstattrick.com.

He also had a points-per-60 minutes rate of 1.98 during 5-on-5 play; only Patrick Kane had a higher one (2.16) on the Blackhawks.

Hinostroza did all this while bouncing around from the first line to the fourth line, meaning it gave Joel Quenneville the luxury to put him anywhere and expect his offensive production to stay the same. His versatility in that sense, along with being able to play any of the three forward positions, makes him a valuable piece of this club.

The Blackhawks know that, and envision him as part of the long-term picture. Not bad for the Bartlett native who was taken in the sixth round (169th overall) in 2012 by his hometown team.

"I want to make it clear our No. 1 priority as we move forward is to make sure we can keep these young players — DeBrincat and Schmaltz and Hinostroza and some other young players that are going to maybe join our team over the next year or two," GM Stan Bowman said. "That's the direction that we're headed, and we want those guys to be Blackhawks and to take a bigger role."

Patrick Sharp to serve as guest NHL analyst for NBC Sports' Stanley Cup Playoff coverage

patrick_sharp_blackhawks.jpg
USA TODAY

Patrick Sharp to serve as guest NHL analyst for NBC Sports' Stanley Cup Playoff coverage

Despite announcing his retirement from the NHL this season, Patrick Sharp insisted he's not going anywhere.

And he won't be.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Blackhawks will be serving as a guest analyst on NHL Live tonight and Wednesday during NBC Sports' first-round Stanley Cup Playoff coverage, appearing on the pregame show at 5:30 p.m., breaking down the intermissions of Blue Jackets vs. Capitals and Jets vs. Wild.

Sharp will join Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick for Columbus-Washington and Kathryn Tappen, Anson Carter and Roenick for Winnipeg-Minnesota.

Perhaps we're seeing a little glimpse of what Sharp's future post-playing career could hold?