Blackhawks

Hockey in the blood: Hawks prospect Beau Starrett trying to live out dream

Hockey in the blood: Hawks prospect Beau Starrett trying to live out dream

For Beau Starrett, there are a few good reasons to be one of four brothers who grew up playing hockey: the competition was right under the same roof and you never had to go far to assemble a pickup game.

“We had a goalie, a defenseman and two forwards. Almost a full starting lineup,” the Blackhawks prospect said. “My dad paves roads and highways for a living, so we have a nice big, sealed, coated driveway. We used to get out there all the time to play some 2-on-2 street hockey. We get along well, like to hoot and holler at each other but we had a blast with it and pushed each other.”

Two of Beau’s brothers, Pete and Troy, entered the business world following their collegiate hockey careers at Harvard and Babson College, respectively. His other brother, Shane, a goaltender out of the Air Force Academy, signed with the Edmonton Oilers in April. As for Beau, he’ll keep working toward that degree, but becoming a professional hockey player is still the No. 1 goal.

“Obviously the sky’s the limit,” said Starrett, who’s attending his fourth Blackhawks development camp. “Everyone here is here for the same job and competing for that one spot to make the Blackhawks. You do the best in our organization to get that job.”

Starrett is used to the competition from those pickup games with his brothers. The same goes for the pro-hockey inspiration. Starrett would love nothing more than to one day face his brother Shane, who was undrafted and coming off a stellar sophomore season with the Air Force Academy (26-6-4) when the Oilers signed him to a two-year, entry-level deal this spring.

“He’s a goalie, so it was always fun to test him and see how good he is. He took the road less traveled; going to Air Force, you definitely don’t see players from that program signing pro contracts. We’re best friends. We push each other, and I’m so proud of him to have signed a deal with Edmonton,” Beau said. “It’s definitely be a huge dream for me and my parents to maybe play against him in the NHL one day. We’ll see how that goes and who my parents would root for in that game.”

[Calling it a career: Brian Campbell retires, joins Blackhawks front office]

This fall Beau Starrett will enter his junior year at Cornell. Off the ice, he’s a communication major with a business minor – “I like to say I’m pretty versatile in the classroom,” he said. Asked what part of his game he’s improved most on the ice, Starrett said the mental side of it. He credited Dave Marks, the Blackhawks’ mental skills coach, for a lot of his progress.

“Starting from Christmas on I improved the mental part of my game. It definitely carried over on the ice. take for granted,” he said. “You can work out and bench press all you want, but it starts with the mental part of the game. I tip my cap to Dave Marks. I feel very confident out there, I feel good.”

Starrett has been motivated by his brothers all his life. Two have found post-college success in business world while another is pursuing his NHL dream. Beau wants to be the next one making a career on the ice.

“I was skating at 2, being the youngest of four. As far as I can remember I’ve been on the ice and it’s always been a dream to play in the NHL,” he said. “I chose to develop as a player. Each year I want to get better and pursue my dream.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?