Red-hot Alex DeBrincat sparks Blackhawks in win over Rangers

Red-hot Alex DeBrincat sparks Blackhawks in win over Rangers

A break. A fortunate bounce. A squeaker of a goal. Recently the Blackhawks haven’t had a lot of the puck luck that hockey teams talk about all the time. But when Alex DeBrincat’s shot slipped through New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist late in the second period, the Blackhawks got a big break and didn’t let it go to waste.

Through most of the third period the Blackhawks looked like a more familiar group, one that was opportunistic around loose pucks and rebounds. Artem Anisimov was the main benefactor, scoring a natural hat trick – his first career hat trick – in the Blackhawks’ 6-3 victory against his former team. But the Blackhawks’ overall reaction in the opening minutes of the third period is something they need to build on going forward.

“It was a huge goal for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We had a good second period and did a lot of good things and that all of a sudden gets us excited about the third and we had a great beginning.”

The Blackhawks were doing more right in the second period, outside of their power play late in the period. Several in the United Center crowd booed as the Blackhawks came up empty on that advantage, but DeBrincat’s goal not long after changed the crowd’s mood and momentum.

“It’s DeBrincat’s goal. That was the spark. [It was] like, OK, we have a tight game right now, we sat and [thought] about it in the locker room: just go out there and play,” Anisimov said. “It was an important goal for our team game and at the end of the period it gives us a little boost for the third period and we just kept going.”

The Blackhawks needed to reverse their fortunes. There wasn’t much working for them lately; on nights when Corey Crawford was outstanding they couldn’t score and when they did erupt for seven goals on Sunday he had an off night. On Wednesday the Blackhawks were more opportunistic, less panicky when the Rangers started to come back in the third period and composed enough to get a much-needed two points.

And it all started with that DeBrincat goal.

“I think it was kind of a lucky one, just a shot on net trying to create something and it happened to squeak through and gave us a lot of momentum there,” DeBrincat said. “Shoot the puck is the lesson there: good things can happen when you shoot the puck on net."

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

Life was a lot different last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs

For the first time in a decade, the Blackhawks officially will not be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at the United Center, the Blackhawks will be sitting at home mid-April instead of looking to add to their trophy case.

Exactly 366 days before, the Blackhawks actually became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff berth, also the result of a game against the Avs:

The last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs, Denis Savard was the coach and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were just 19 years old in the midst of their rookie seasons.

The next year, Joel Quenneville took over as coach after four games and led the Blackhawks all the way to the Conference Finals.

Of course, the following year (2009-10 season) brought the first of three Stanley Cups.

For perspective on how incredible this stretch has been for the Blackhawks, here's how the other professional Chicago sports teams spent 2008:

—The Bears finished 9-7 in Matt Forte's rookie year (he's since retired) with Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith as head coach.

—The Cubs led the National League in runs scored en route to a 97-win regular season...before falling flat against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. Lou Piniella was still the manager and Theo Epstein was still three years away from coming to Chicago.

—The Bulls found some incredible luck, pulling the No. 1 overall pick and selecting Chicago native Derrick Rose. He helped the Bulls to a 41-41 season as a rookie under coach Vinny Del Negro.

—The White Sox lost to Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS after winning the AL Central under manager Ozzie Guillen. Carlos Quentin enjoyed a breakout season (36 HR, 100 RBI) while Gavin Floyd won 17 games. 

The Blackhawks still have eight games left before the 2017-18 season ends April 7.

Alex DeBrincat records third career hat trick, but Blackhawks lose to Blues in overtime

Alex DeBrincat records third career hat trick, but Blackhawks lose to Blues in overtime

For Alex DeBrincat, it was probably nice to hear Chelsea Dagger again.

But how about three times?

The 20-year-old rookie snapped out of a 13-game scoring drought in a big way on Sunday night, recording his third hat trick of the season. DeBrincat did all he could to help give the Blackhawks two points, but they only came away with one in a 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues.

DeBrincat is now the first rookie in franchise history with three hat tricks in the same season, passing Steve Larmer. His last two hat tricks came against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 27, 2017 and Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 25.

"It's pretty cool," DeBrincat said of his third hat trick, "but I wouldn't be able to do that without the guys we have in this locker room and the linemates I've had. Most credit to them."

Entering Sunday, his last goal was on Feb. 17 against the Washington Capitals.

"Obviously it's frustrating when you go through a slump that like that but what I've learned is to stay positive and there's other things you can help your team win with," DeBrincat said. "Just kind of focus on those things."

He netted goals No. 23, 24 and 25 on the season, tying Patrick Kane for the team lead. He is also tied for second among goals scored by a rookie this season.

DeBrincat opened the scoring with nice wrist shot on the power play to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead midway through the first. With less than a minute to go in the period, he tapped one home in front of the net to make it 2-0.

In the third period with the game tied at 3-3, DeBrincat put his team in front 4-3 with 3:13 left in regulation. 

“We were talking about [DeBrincat] today, it had been a while since he had scored," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But whether he scores or not, he does a lot of good things in the game, and he’s very aware of his positioning, and doing the right things, finding pucks, getting in shooting lanes, or denying passing lanes. So he’s effective in a lot of ways, but nice to see him score a nice power-play goal today.”

But Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo even things up again after a shot from the point found its way past J-F Berube with 1:22 left. Patrik Berglund would net the game-winner in overtime to hand the Blackhawks a loss.

"I feel like we’ve played well and we just came up a little bit short," DeBrincat said. "I feel like that’s been the theme of this whole season.”