Youth movement serves Wild


Youth movement serves Wild

Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw have been playing so well that coach Joel Quenneville admitted theyre both very deserving of staying a while.

That trend continued on Thursday.

Hayes had a power-play goal and an assist and Shaw added his second goal this season as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 at the United Center on Thursday night. The Blackhawks, who moved back to first place in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference, have won two straight and have gotten points in their last three games.

Dave Bolland had two goals a power-play score and an empty netter and an assist. Viktor Stalberg added his 13th goal of the season, a new career high.

It was another impressive night for the rookies, who continue to log good minutes and contribute in every capacity the two combined for seven of the Blackhawks 24 hits.

That was a big goal by Shaw early on. He was dangerous off the rush, hes smart and keeps himself in the play, coach Joel Quenneville said. Jimmy scored a big one for our power play which wasnt pretty up to that point. We liked our contributions.

The Blackhawks will have to make choices soon, however, as Marcus Kruger should be back this weekend. But Shaw and Hayes are nevertheless making statements to stay.

After Devin Setoguchi gave the Wild an early 1-0 lead the Blackhawks turned it up offensively, scoring four consecutive goals. Shaw started it, and Hayes added his power-play goal off a pretty Bolland pass.

Jimmy is a big body in front, as you guys can tell, Bolland said. When he stands in front I think its tough to move him around. And I know when youre playing against a big guy in the defensive zone it is tough.

The Blackhawks got those across-the-board contributions theyve been looking for tonight. Whether it was good defense, different names on the score sheet or scoring on that struggling power play they went 2 for 3 tonight the Blackhawks were doing all the right things.

It was one of our more complete games from start to finish and a sign that were learning from recent mistakes, said defenseman Steve Montador, who had two assists. Theyre a tough team to play because they make you play a patient game and we wanted to not sit back and wanted to play an energetic game.

Michael Frolik also had two assists, as 10 different Blackhawks garnered a point against the Wild.

The Blackhawks have a tricky weekend coming up, with back to backs against Detroit on Saturday and San Jose on Sunday. Theyve been playing the team game with Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger and Daniel Carcillo out of the lineup, and theyre feeling more confident in it.

Things are working in the offensive zone, but youve got to also work in the defensive zone to get those offensive chances. I think were coming back, were helping our defensemen there, and were getting some quick outs to get in their zone quicker, Bolland said. I think right now were rolling and its a good thing.

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.”

The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line


The pros and cons of reuniting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on Blackhawks top line

Jonathan Toews' offense usually comes in spurts. We're seeing it again right now.

But it's no coincidence his numbers have spiked since Patrick Kane joined him on the top line.

After recording another two points in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks captain has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past eight games; he had 11 points in his previous 23 games total.

Toews also reached the 20-goal mark for the 11th straight season, joining Kane and Alex Ovechkin as the only three active players to accomplish that feat to open their NHL careers.

Kane has seen his offensive production pick up, too. He has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games after going five straight without one, which was his longest point drought of the season.

When the two of them are on the ice together at even strength, they control 57.9 percent of the shot attempts. It hasn't quite translated on the scoresheet (14 goals for and 17 goals against) maybe the way it should, but they are certainly spending far more time in the offensive zone than the defensive end and are generating a high volume of shots.

So yes, reuniting the dynamic duo has worked stats-wise.

But it comes at a cost:

— Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz haven't scored in six straight contests.

— Alex DeBrincat's season-long goal drought is up to 13 games.

— Artem Anisimov's last even-strength goal came nine games ago.

When you put Kane and Toews together, you risk losing some balance across the lineup and that's why Joel Quenneville has always been reluctant to go to that nuclear option. He prefers when opposing teams are forced to play 'Pick Your Poison.'

Ideally, you'd like to spread out the scoring, but one thing is for certain: The Blackhawks are better when Kane and Toews are each producing offensively, whether they're apart or together. 

When the wins start to dry up though — and they have — that's normally when it's time to try something different.

Perhaps more importantly, the last thing you want are those scoring droughts mentioned above to stretch even further and get inside the younger skaters' heads, then carrying it with them into the offseason.