Blackhawks' Trevor van Riemsdyk proving himself again this season


Blackhawks' Trevor van Riemsdyk proving himself again this season

CALGARY, Alberta – Trevor van Riemsdyk made the Blackhawks’ roster right out of the 2014 training camp and was on the United Center ice in June after helping the Blackhawks clinch the Stanley Cup against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Still, when this season began, van Riemsdyk almost felt like he was starting over again. Two injuries – including a fractured patella on which he had surgery one year ago – cost him the rest of the Blackhawks’ regular season and most of the playoffs. So this past September, van Riemsdyk approached camp and this season like it was brand new.

“My mindset was I still had to prove everything again, show I was healthy and ready to play the way I started last year off,” van Riemsdyk said following Thursday’s practice. “The injuries were unfortunate but [I just had] that mindset, regardless of whether I was hurt or not, that I wanted to come in and prove to them what I could do – and if they wanted to give me more responsibility, whatever role they wanted me to play, that I could do whatever they asked me.”

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Van Riemsdyk’s approach helped. The young defenseman has made great strides, has continued to gain trust and has earned more responsibility in what qualifies as his rookie season. Van Riemsdyk first took on more responsibility when Duncan Keith was sidelined with his knee injury/surgery. He’s held onto it thanks to steady play.

“We like how he’s evolved,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We saw some nice upside in his game last year. The fact he made it right out of college is a huge hurdle he overcame. He has a great feel for the game, we like his position and poise, like his reads and awareness. And he has patience with the puck.”

“It’s all worked out where, at this stage, it’s been a nice first year for him winning a championship and now getting more responsibility,” Quenneville said. “We want to keep making him better and we want to keep looking for him to be better.”

Between offseason changes and injuries earlier this season, the Blackhawks have dabbled with defensive pairs plenty. Van Riemsdyk played with Keith in the preseason, started the regular season with Trevor Daley, paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson when Keith was hurt and partnered with Brent Seabrook when Keith returned. But van Riemsdyk, speaking of his most recent defensive partners, said there hasn’t been much altering in his game.

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“Obviously they play a little bit of a different style but both really good defensemen. Both smart and responsible and where they need to be. So they make it pretty easy playing with them,” he said of Hjalmarsson and Seabrook. “They’re always talking to me letting me know where they are, and they make the game a lot easier for me.”

Van Riemsdyk approached this season like he was starting over. But he gained trust in his few games last season and built on that these past few months. Whether playing a few minutes or plenty of them, as he has the last few weeks, van Riemsdyk has been steady. That’s what the Blackhawks need.

“It’s all worked out where, at this stage, it’s been a nice first year for him winning a championship and now getting more responsibility,” Quenneville said. “We want to keep making him better and we want to keep looking for him to be better.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?