Connor McDavid

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to Oilers: Connor McDavid adds to highlight reel

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night:
 
1. Shake-up on power play doesn't work.

Joel Quenneville spruced up his power play units before Wednesday's game in an effort to snap a dry spell, but the Blackhawks had no luck in that department in the second of a back-to-back.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-5 on the man advantage against an Oilers team that was ranked dead last in penalty kill percentage going into the contest, and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 opportunity for 56 seconds in the opening minutes of the season period.

They're getting off a fair amount of shots, but the quality of them isn't there.

2. Ryan Hartman fine after brief exit due to illegal hit.

It was a physical game between the Blackhawks-Oilers, but a line was crossed at the 4:59 mark into the second period when Zack Kassian delivered a huge hit on Hartman, who went face-first into the boards.

Kassian was given a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, a call that didn't sit well with the sold-out United Center crowd of 21,444. Hartman went to the locker room to be checked out after the hit despite getting up quickly and showing no visible signs of distress, but he fortunately returned a few shifts later.

It was a dangerous hit by Kassian, and an avoidable one too. 

Quenneville admitted Hartman getting up quickly perhaps may have "helped" keep it a minor penalty and not a five-minute major, but the Blackhawks coach wasn't focused on that after seeing the result unfold.

"I saw how hard it looked," Quenneville said. "But Hartzy getting up right away, that helped. You don't even measure it anymore after that. That's the one thing you're hopeful for right off the bat."
 
3. Connor McDavid adds another play to highlight reel.

We're only two weeks into the season, but the 20-year-old reigning Hart Trophy winner submitted an early entry for Assist of the Year.

Late in the first period, McDavid flew from his own end into the offensive zone, made a spin-o-rama move on two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and backhanded a perfect pass to Patrick Maroon, who tapped in a goal at the doorstep.

It looks impossible to defend from anyone watching, and Keith pretty much felt the same way.

"When he gets the speed in the other end there and he's able to skate all the way down, it's tough to stop a guy especially when he's that fast," Keith said. "He's just flying through the middle. I'm just a sitting duck there at the other end of the ice waiting for him to come full speed. It's a hard play to defend against."
 
4. Anton Forsberg sharp again.

It's a small sample size, but the Blackhawks' backup goaltender has looked really sharp in practically every start he's had in a Chicago uniform, including preseason.

He deserved a better fate in his regular season debut last week in Toronto when he stopped 39 of 43 shots in an overtime loss, and the same applied here.

Forsberg tied a career-high with 40 saves, and seemingly got better as the game went on.

"I for sure felt more comfortable, felt like I was more used to the speed," Forsberg said. "It's tough again to lose in overtime, obviously I wanted a win and that's kind of frustrating."

"Excellent games, both games," Quenneville said of his goaltender. "Would've been nice to get him a win tonight."
 
5. Jordan Oesterle keeps it simple in debut.

The Blackhawks' crowded blue line has made it difficult for Quenneville to give all eight defensemen a fair amount of playing time, but Oesterle took advantage of his season debut.

He logged 15:01 of ice time, registered three shot attempts (two on goal), and blocked two shots.

"I liked him," Quenneville said. "Moves the puck."

Said Keith: "I thought he was good. Tough situation for him, he hasn't played all year in a game but I thought he played good. He's got good poise, he's smart back there."

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will soon no longer have the NHL's highest cap hits

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will soon no longer have the NHL's highest cap hits

Beginning in 2018-19, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will no longer have the highest cap hits in the NHL.

The pair of Blackhawks superstars inked identical eight-year, $84 million contracts that kicked in during the 2015-16 season, with their annual average value of $10.5 million being the highest among all players. Until Wednesday when it was announced in Edmonton that captain Connor McDavid agreed to an eight-year extension worth $100 million, which comes out to a $12.5 million AAV.

The 20-year-old All-Star had a historic sophomore campaign with the Oilers by becoming the third-youngest player (Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky) in league history to win the NHL's scoring title and Hart Trophy for MVP. He also helped the franchise snap a 10-year playoff drought.

McDavid's new deal will take up 16.7 percent of the current $75 million cap ceiling; the maximum allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement is 20 percent. For comparison, when Kane and Toews signed their megadeals, they took up 15.2 percent each.

Montreal's Carey Price will also pull even with Kane and Toews starting in 2018-19 after recently signing the largest contract by a goaltender, an eight-year, $84 million deal with a $10.5 million cap hit.

OHL coach believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat is just about ready for NHL

OHL coach believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat is just about ready for NHL

Alex DeBrincat’s Ontario Hockey League career appears to be over. He and the Erie Otters advanced to the Memorial Cup championship before falling to the Windsor Spitfires. There isn’t much DeBrincat didn’t do with the Otters, be it team titles (they claimed the OHL crown this season) to individual awards (OHL and Canadian Hockey League player of the year).

So now the big question: how will DeBrincat, the Blackhawks’ second-round pick in the 2016 NHL draft, fare at the next level? Plenty are curious to see what he can do, and that includes his coach for the past three seasons.

“I think Alex is really close,” Otters coach Kris Knoblauch said in a phone interview on Thursday night. “It’s been a pleasure coaching Alex, seeing him come in as a young player but not too often do young players have an immediate impact. A lot has to do with his skill. Obviously he was fortunate to play with skilled players like (Connor) McDavid but his game has come a long way.”

DeBrincat’s offensive talents are pretty obvious. After recording back-to-back 51-goal seasons with the Otters, DeBrincat tallied 65 goals and 62 assists this past season. He and the Otters claimed the OHL championship before advancing to the Memorial Cup for the first time since 2002. He can move around the lineup — DeBrincat started the Otters’ season at center, played a few games at right wing but was mainly at left. As for defense, DeBrincat said in early May that improving that was a focal point for him this season. Knoblauch said DeBrincat made strides there.

[RELATED: Connor McDavid believes Blackhawks prospect Alex DeBrincat will succeed in NHL]

“The biggest part of his defense is the ability of stealing pucks, pressuring the defensemen, forcing them to make bad decisions,” he said. “Just being able to have the stick in the right lane an intercept passes. He got better at those little subtle skills.”

The transition to professional hockey can always be tricky. Players are bigger, faster, stronger, better. We could go on and on about DeBrincat’s size (5-foot-7, 165 pounds) but that is what it is. He wants to get stronger and will have to be, Knoblauch said, given the battles he’ll be facing in the pros.

“I think it’s just playing against the big, strong guys. It’s not that he’s afraid; he’s very good at battles. But just playing against the opposition, against five strong, fast players and just finding out how much time he has, where the room is,” Knoblauch said. “One-on-one battles in our league, there are strong guys and he does fairly well. But when you have a unit of guys, it makes the game a little more difficult.”

DeBrincat accomplished plenty in the OHL. Last month, he wasn’t sure what his immediate future held regarding the Blackhawks — at that point, he hadn’t talked with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman about what came next. There’s a great anticipation for what DeBrincat can do at the next level. Knoblauch said the 19-year-old’s physical abilities, as well as his mental toughness, have served him well to this point. They’ll come in handy at the next level, too, for which DeBrincat is just about ready.

“I’m sure many people are telling him he won’t be able to play in the NHL or questioning if he ever will. That’ll be just more motivation for Alex,” Knoblauch said. “He feeds off that. When people tell him he can’t do something, he loves to show them they’re wrong.”