In shadow of Blackhawks sexy offense, young defensive duo lights Q's lamp


In shadow of Blackhawks sexy offense, young defensive duo lights Q's lamp

Jan Rutta was taking in every moment of his first NHL game on Thursday night, from the introductions to the Bryan Bickell ceremony to the raucous United Center crowd, which had plenty of reasons to be boisterous. That may sound like Rutta was distracted but it was actually the opposite.

“I mean, the fans are amazing and they fill us with so much energy,” Rutta said. “So it’s really good.”

For Rutta, it was the crowd. For Gustav Forsling, his partner in the Blackhawks’ season opener, it was offseason reading on mental skills. Be it Rutta’s transition from Europe to North America or Forsling’s need to improve in a sophomore season, whatever helps a young defenseman feel more comfortable you go with it. It worked for Game 1, anyway, when the duo came away with a combined outing that coach Joel Quenneville appreciated.

“Both of them were strong defensively,” Quenneville said. “They went to people quickly, I thought they had a really good gap and the involvement in our rush game and their patience with the puck on the point was great. Our defense as a group of six were really good as far as defense to offense and more involvement with our defense on the attack.”

[MORE: Showtime, baby: Blackhawks' second line was off-the-charts good in blowout win

The Blackhawks’ big question this season is defense, so nights like Thursday for Rutta and Forsling are encouraging. They’ll likely be playing again on Saturday when the Blackhawks face the Columbus Blue Jackets – why the heck would you change anything out of a 10-1 victory? For Rutta, the move across the pond has been smooth. Same goes for the transition from preseason to Game 1 of the regular season.

“I played four preseason games and those teams, they played one, two, sometimes three lines of their normal teams. Getting to know the players – not that I didn’t know them. I know them from TV – but once you’re on the ice with them, it’s a little different,” Rutta said with a laugh. “It’s good to get to know the guys you play.”

Forsling, meanwhile has to jump off the levels he set last training camp. It was an excellent start but the Blackhawks needed more from him. That goes double this season but Forsling is feeling more confident about himself and his game – again, mental skills reading this summer.

“I just trust myself. I trust my abilities and I keep working every day,” Forsling said. “I learned a lot [last season] but I wasn’t really happy. I wanted more. So I’ll try to get that out of me this season.”

Quenneville likes Forsling’s approach.

“When you have confidence as a young defenseman, you seem to have way more patience of things developing and opening up and then you have confidence going into the puck area and trying to influence it and not that hesitation in your game,” he said. “When [Forsling] plays with more poise he gets to another level. He’s had a good camp and some really good days. And definitely his partner helps and does a lot of nice things with him.”

Who knows how long the Blackhawks’ defense is going to be a work in progress. There will probably be switches – Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were together on Thursday but that likely won’t be long term. For Rutta and Forsling, getting as many opportunities as possible and utilizing whatever helps them feel better out there will help their development

Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season


Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season

Eddie Olczyk joins Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers to discuss what went wrong for the Blackhawks this season, and what changes could happen this summer to get the team back into the postseason.

Listen to the entire HawksTalk Podcast here:

Amazing news: Eddie Olczyk is cancer-free

Amazing news: Eddie Olczyk is cancer-free

Eddie Olczyk is cancer-free!

The beloved Blackhawks broadcaster provided an update on his health after a battle with cancer and had the best news possible.

His scan scheduled for early-April was moved up and the results brought good news:

"I'm proud to stand here before everybody and you [Pat Foley] — my partner and my friend — that all the cancer is gone," Olyczyk said. "We beat this thing, and I say 'we' because it has been a team effort. Not only from the great doctors, but from this organization, from Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough, Jay Blunk, Coach Q, hockey operations, these great trainers, our broadcasters, you partner for all the texts and visits daily, the National Hockey League, all my friends and my family: my brothers Ricky and Randy, my mom and dad, and of course, my four kids — Eddie, Tommy, Zandra and Nicky and my beautiful wife Diana. If it wasn't for them, there's no way I could've gotten through this.

"So I believe we all beat this and I'm so thankful for all the support and prayers. They worked. I'm proud to stand here before everybody and let them know that we beat this thing. I've had enough crying to last me a lifetime, partner, and I'm just so excited that I got that call on March 14th at 5:07 p.m. letting me know that my scans were clear. I've never heard a better phrase in my life.

"I'm now 10 days on with the rest of my life and that's the way I'm looking at it."