Gustav Forsling making a big impression on Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks

Gustav Forsling making a big impression on Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville got his first good training-camp look at Gustav Forsling on Friday night, when the team was in Pittsburgh. It was a good one.

“He immediately impressed me [Friday], his poise his patience, his play recognition, he’s positionally aware, moves extremely well…. I was very happy with his game,” Quenneville said on Saturday. “The timing of him coming along in our organization, how fast he progresses will be determined with how he plays and how things work out. But certainly, I see a real nice defenseman and he could be one of those guys who could be really good.”

The Swedish defenseman, who played 22 minutes, 33 seconds and recorded an assist in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, is making a big impression right now. Quenneville praised him, saying he had a special game on Saturday. So did general manager Stan Bowman and assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The immediate problem is this: with the defensive depth restored on the Blackhawks, can he make this roster right now?

“Well, I got here two years ago and I don’t think anyone expected [Trevor van Riemsdyk] to step into our lineup, either,” assistant coach Kevin Dineen said following Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. “What I’ve seen it’s a performance-based organization. If he earns a role, we’ll find a spot for him.”

Forsling is well aware of the situation.

“I mean, we have a lot of good [defensemen] so it’s going to be tough,” Forsling said. “But I’m just trying to do my best and see how it goes.”

As written previously, the top six are fairly set: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Kempny. If the Blackhawks choose to carry eight defensemen, and that’s always possible if the cap space allows it, Forsling could be part of the mix. Then again, if Forsling is only here for part-time work, would that be productive for his development?

“We're certainly going to see how he plays in these exhibition games. Whether he (would be) benefitted from going to Sweden? That's a great league, so if he does end up back there, he's going to continue to grow his game. But we haven't made that decision yet. We want to see how things go here,” Bowman said. “A lot can change in a couple weeks, in terms of health of players and how they play. We haven't determined that, but if he's not here I think Sweden's a great development league for him.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The immediate future may mean a return trip to Sweden for Forsling. But given the impression he’s made and his potential, a long-term future with the Blackhawks looks good.

“We like the depth of our blue line. We’re deeper than we’ve been in past years. The openings aren’t what they are up front. But over the course of a season, that position is definitely important and you always have to go deep at certain times,” Quenneville said. “How it plays out, initially, there’s time to be sorting that out. But we like the upside he brings and potentially, once he shows he’s a regular, he’s only going to get better off that.”



— Prior to the game the Blackhawks assigned forward Kyle Baun, and defensemen Dillon Fournier, Carl Dahlstrom, and Nolan Valleau to the Rockford IceHogs. They also released forward Alex DeBrincat and Graham Knott, who will head to their respective junior teams (DeBrincat to the Erie Otters, Knott to the Niagara IceDogs). The team’s active roster now at 25 forwards, 13 defensemen and five goaltenders.

— Quenneville, who’s back after serving as assistant coach for Team Canada, talked of the World Cup of Hockey being “a great experience.” He especially appreciated the end of Game 2 against Team Europe; Brad Marchand scored the game- and tournament-winning goal with 43 seconds remaining in regulation. “Certainly, the ending reminded me of Boston, Game 6 [in 2013],” he said. “Definitely a fun way to go out.”

— The Blackhawks will be taking a young lineup to Detroit for Sunday’s game. “Not a lot of experienced guys going,” Quenneville said.

— Quenneville said Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford and Marian Hossa will join the Blackhawks at training camp either Tuesday or Wednesday.

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.”