Carolina Hurricanes

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime win over Hurricanes: Alex DeBrincat's breakout game

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime win over Hurricanes: Alex DeBrincat's breakout game

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night:

1. Stumbling out of the gates, again.

For the second straight game, the Blackhawks lacked some jump from the get-go and spent the first half of the opening frame chasing the Hurricanes, who peppered 14 shots on goal in the first 10 minutes.

To the Blackhawks' credit, they bounced back and finished the period with 30 shot attempts (16 on goal) but not before allowing two goals to Brock McGinn — his first of the night — and Jeff Skinner. They also came up empty on their lone power play opportunity.

The Blackhawks have now been outscored 11-8 in the first period since the first two games of the season when they outscored Pittsburgh and Columbus by a combined 7-0.

2. Where did that come from?

The Hurricanes took an uncharactersitic amount of penalties, which led to four power play opportunities for the Blackhawks. And they turned in one of their best efforts in a long, long time on the second of four.

Early in the second period on Marcus Kruger's tripping penalty, the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire two minutes in Carolina's end and were able to cash in at the very end of it when Jonathan Toews fed a beautiful pass to Alex DeBrincat, who buried home Chicago's first goal of the evening. It happened exactly when the Blackhawks' power play expired, but we're still counting it as something they can build off of.

That's one the coaching staff will absolutely circle in the film room, and preach doing exactly that going forward.

3. Alex DeBrincat's breakout game.

The Blackhawks' top prospect hasn't been bad in the early stages of his rookie campaign, but he hasn't been an impact player either. And that's understandable; he's only 19 year old and still adjusting to the league.

He easily had his best game in a Blackhawks sweater to date, showing big flashes of his potential.

DeBrincat scored two goals — both in the second period — and added a pretty assist on Brandon Saad's overtime game winner to help his team pick up an important two points. It was DeBrincat's second multi-point effort of the season, and first career three-point game.

He now has four goals — albeit, two were empty netters — in five games this month after scoring just one in 12 games in October. 

4. Saad makes up for missed penalty shot.

The Blackhawks spent the majority of the game playing catch-up, but they had a prime opportunity to take control early on when Saad drew a slashing penalty that resulted in a penalty shot seconds into a Carolina power play.

Saad was denied by former teammate Scott Darling, and fell to 0-for-3 on penalty shots for his career. It almost served as the turning point in the game, considering the Hurricanes followed that up by scoring a pair of goals to give themselves a two-goal lead.

But Saad made up for that by netting his fifth game-winning goal of the season — second in overtime — when he beat Darling five-hole, snapping a 10-game goal drought. It came a game after he registered a season-high eight shots on goal. He was due.

5. Second line leads the spark.

When the Blackhawks fell behind 2-0, it was the trio of Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane that generated a few scoring chances on back-to-back shifts to help tilt the ice in Chicago's favor.

Kane was the only player from that line to get on the scoresheet (one assist) when it was all said and done, but they had the best possession numbers of the four lines, combining for 20 shot attempts (10 on goal).

 

Days as Blackhawks' fill-in prepped Scott Darling for role as Hurricanes' new No. 1

1110_darling.jpg
USA TODAY

Days as Blackhawks' fill-in prepped Scott Darling for role as Hurricanes' new No. 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Scott Darling was used to dealing with the on-ice pressure from his time with the Blackhawks. From his stellar performance against the Nashville Predators in April 2015 to taking over when Corey Crawford had appendicitis last December, Darling showed he could handle a No. 1 goaltending job someday.

But for Darling, earning that status has been as much about the right attitude as the experience.

“I don’t know if the transition to starter was that tough. It’s always something I’ve been excited about and really enjoyed when I got the opportunity in Chicago if Crow was hurt or sick or something. It’s (more) the big life change, to move (somewhere) I’ve never really been other than to play the Hurricanes,” Darling said. “So that transition, it took a little bit and I’m finally comfortable.”

Darling had a few tough games but is getting back to form lately, giving up just two goals in his last two games. And he’ll start on Saturday night when the Hurricanes host the Blackhawks at PNC Arena. As of Friday, Darling is seventh in the league with a 2.35 goals-against average, and Carolina coach Bill Peters said Darling’s transition to starter has been “fairly seamless.”

“He’s playing really well for us,” Peters said. “It’s a good combination of our goaltenders. There’s a bit of a different style among the two (Darling and Cam Ward) and the things we’ve asked Scotty to work on, he’s done an excellent job. So I think he’s really trending in the right direction.”

Darling is one of six former Blackhawks on Carolina’s roster right now and having that many familiar faces has helped him get used to the new surroundings. On the ice, the Hurricanes have either struggled to score goals or have given up leads late. It’s led to some disappointing outcomes and players say Darling’s deserved a better fate in some of those games.

“We’ve played 13 games and we’ve had a chance to win them all. They’ve been close games. We know we can always trust him and he’s been playing great for us,” Marcus Kruger said of Darling. “Hopefully we can win a few more games here for him because he really deserves that.”

Carolina forward Jeff Skinner said Darling has had a calming influence on the Hurricanes.

“He’s big and steady, big and strong back there and settles everyone down. I think obviously when you add a player of his pedigree, especially in that position, it can settle guys down,” Skinner said. “We have a lot of young guys who have played a lot of minutes and played big roles on our back end, but having him back there has definitely been a positive.”

Asked about playing that settle-down role, Darling said, “I think it’s just they’ve been through some tough years here recently, and not just myself but having all of these new guys who have a winning pedigree the last couple of years and want to win and know how to win, it’s been good for the whole team and all the young guys. It’s just knowing what to say in the locker room, not getting flustered or giving up if we get down a goal or something like that.”

Darling’s biggest transition was off the ice, getting used to a new city and a new organization. Considering the on-ice situations he faced in the hopes of eventually getting a No. 1 goaltending job, the adjustment to that has been fairly smooth.

“It’s a new organization, new people, new bosses, learning how things work here. So that’s been a transition,” Darling said. “But on the ice it’s just hockey and I feel pretty comfortable.”

Emotional Bryan Bickell retires with Blackhawks: 'I didn't want it any other way'

Emotional Bryan Bickell retires with Blackhawks: 'I didn't want it any other way'

Bryan Bickell got the call from the Blackhawks not long after he played his final game against the Philadelphia Flyers, a call offering him the opportunity to retire with the team with which he won three Stanley Cups.

“I didn’t want it any other way,” Bickell said.

Bickell’s retirement talk on Wednesday was reminiscent of so many of the media interviews he gave: sometimes funny, sometimes emotional and completely honest. The former Blackhawks forward, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nearly a year ago, fought back tears as he talked of his time with the team, ending everything here and his health — which is improving.

“Every day, every month is getting better,” Bickell said. “There are good days and bad days but there’s more good than bad. Things are going the right way. The treatments and technology they come out with every month, every year, it’s outstanding. Hopefully one day we find a cure and I hope we find help to do that.”

Bickell will keep being active in the fight against MS — “I want to tell my story, what I went through, just inspire other people to get diagnosed and the experience with their families.” As for hockey, maybe he’ll get involved with that again in the future.

“I want to get back into hockey,” he said. “I have two young girls, 3 and 1, and watching them grow is the first thing I want to do and see where it goes from there. Work with kids and things like that would be a goal for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

Bickell’s playing career ended way too prematurely. It ended as well as it could have, with Bickell fighting back to play in the Carolina Hurricanes’ final few regular-season games last spring and him scoring a shootout goal — “my shooting percentage is 50 percent, which is nice,” he said to laughs. When the news came down that he would retire with the Blackhawks he was inundated with messages. Bickell gave the Blackhawks his best; his retiring with them was a fitting, “thank you.”

“It was nice to see the respect,” Bickell said. “I know the news came out last night [on my retiring here] and seeing all the texts, the media and just all the respect for me and the team has built in the city, it’s an honor to be part of it. To finish here, it’s awesome.”