Erik Gustafsson

Glass half full? There was something to be excited about in Blackhawks loss to Bruins

Glass half full? There was something to be excited about in Blackhawks loss to Bruins

There hasn't been much to cheer for this season if you're a Blackhawks fan.

It was another painful unraveling on Saturday after they allowed four power-play goals and suffered their second regulation loss (17-2-3) when leading after two periods in a 7-4 loss to the Boston Bruins.

But, taking a glass half-full approach, there was something to be excited about.

Matthew Highmore scored his first career NHL goal, added two blocked shots and two hits in a season-high 15:48 of ice time.

John Hayden, who was recalled from the AHL's Rockford IceHogs on an emergency basis, showed some fight — literally — by dropping the gloves in his second shift then scoring a goal the next period. He basically picked up where he left off in Rockford, where he had five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 22 games.

Erik Gustafsson had a career-high three points, and has two goals in three games since signing a two-year contract extension. He had only one goal in his previous 60 games, dating back to last year's rookie campaign.

Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz each registered an assist to maintain their position among the Top 4 scorers on the Blackhawks, while David Kampf also recorded an assist for the second straight game, had a team-high four takeaways and won at least half of his faceoffs for the seventh straight game — he's 52-for-86 (60.5 percent) over that span.

Notice a common theme?

Every single one of those players are aged 25 or younger and made an impact on the scoresheet. Even more encouraging, they did it against a team that is arguably the best in the NHL.

They're taking it upon themselves to stand out in this final month, which is essentially an open audition for next season and beyond.

Sure, the youth movement comes with bumps and bruises, and it's hard to look at this game and feel good about it, but it would be even more alarming if there weren't signs of development in those younger players. That sets franchise's back years.

That's not the case going on in Chicago.

It's about how quickly they can put it all together and make it work as a group, and moving past the developmental stages of the retooling process by 2018-19.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Wide receiver roulette for the Bears


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Wide receiver roulette for the Bears

SportsTalk Live comes at you live from Blackhawks Authentic Fan night at the United Center! Luke Stuckmeyer hosts and is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Mark Lazerus (Chicago Sun-Times) and Charlie Roumeliotis (NBC Sports Chicago/ The guys start things off going over the contract extensions for Jan Rutta and Erik Gustafsson. Next, who should the Bears aim to sign at wide receiver? Finally, will the Astros or Cubs have a better 2018 season?

Blackhawks re-sign Rutta as 2018-19 blue line continues to take shape


Blackhawks re-sign Rutta as 2018-19 blue line continues to take shape

It looks like the Blackhawks will have a very similar blue line in the 2018-19 season. 

Tuesday, the Blackhawks and 25-year-old Erik Gustafsson agreed to a two-year contract extension. Thursday, the team agreed to a one-year deal with defenseman Jan Rutta, which reportedly is worth $2.25 million.

Rutta, 27, leads Blackhawks' defensemen with six goals this season, his first in the NHL. The Blackhawks signed him last summer after he received interest from multiple NHL teams.

Re-signing Gustafsson and Rutta are somewhat surprising moves considering how relatively inexperienced the Blackhawks' blue line is. Jordan Oesterle (66), Gustafsson (61), Rutta (43) and Carl Dahlstrom (11) all have less than a full season of NHL experience. Rutta, however, did play overseas in the Czech league for several seasons.

Outside of their inexperienced blue line, the Blackhawks are projected to have considerable cap space this summer after being up-against the NHL's salary cap more often than not in recent years.

By re-signing Gustafsson and Rutta, though, the Blackhawks now have seven defensemen under contract for the 2018-19 season. Five of those players will make $1 million or more. 

This is not to say that the Blackhawks will not sign a defenseman in free agency, but it does mean that they have slightly less cap space available for free agency. Ultimately, only time will tell whether or not they bring another defenseman aboard this summer.