Blackhawks

After snapping 12-game goal drought, Alex DeBrincat hoping 'I can get hot again'

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AP

After snapping 12-game goal drought, Alex DeBrincat hoping 'I can get hot again'

BOSTON — Alex DeBrincat isn't used to going through long stretches without scoring a goal. He found the back of the net 41 times last season, which was tied for sixth amongst all skaters.

But the offense hasn't come as naturally for him this season. 

While he's dishing out assists at a career-high rate (0.50 per game), DeBrincat had only five goals through 27 games going into Thursday and was on pace to finish the season with 15. The longest goal drought of his NHL career is 13 games, which came during his rookie season, and he was on the verge of tying that mark.

But after breaking through in the third period of Thursday's 4-3 overtime win over the Boston Bruins, DeBrincat ended a 12-game drought for his first goal since Nov. 7. And he's hoping it will open the floodgates.

"It was a long time between goals," DeBrincat said. "But hopefully I can get hot again and keep going."

DeBrincat didn't show it, but the frustration was brewing inside. In Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche he couldn't convert on an open backdoor chance and took out his anger on Samuel Girard by picking a fight with the 5-foot-10, 170-pound defenseman.

DeBrincat is a goal scorer and he wasn't scoring. With the monkey off his back, perhaps this could propel his offensive production.

"He's been playing well, getting chances," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "They just haven't gone in for him. Hopefully this is the little boost that he needs."

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Recapping Joel Quenneville's homecoming and a memorable night of celebration in Chicago

Recapping Joel Quenneville's homecoming and a memorable night of celebration in Chicago

There was a special buzz around the United Center on Tuesday. A different kind of atmosphere than usual. 

The Blackhawks had won five in a row and 11 of their past 15 to climb back into the Western Conference playoff race and have been playing, by far, their best hockey of the season over the last month. The Florida Panthers were also riding a five-game winning streak and had won 12 of their past 16 to move into a top 3 spot in the Atlantic Division.

This was a big matchup in the standings for both teams before the NHL All-Star break and bye week because they each have to sit on this result for nine straight days. That itself was enough for the intensity level to be heightened.

But Tuesday was ultimately a night of celebration in Chicago.

It marked the highly-anticipated return of Joel Quenneville, who was back at the United Center for the first time since being let go on Nov. 6, 2018. He arrived at the arena just after 4 p.m. with a handful of camera crews documenting his every move and had to be directed to the visiting coaches room after nearly forgetting where it was exactly located.

Quenneville caught up with just about everyone you can think of before making his way to the visiting NBA locker room because it was the only area large enough to fit all the media members for his pregame press conference. He spent a majority of the 15 minutes reminiscing about how special his 10-plus year tenure in Chicago was and did so with a huge smile on his face.

"It all brings back a special time in our lives and a special time with the city going through some amazing runs that are so memorable," Quenneville said. "So many people shared it and so many people played a hand in it and were responsible for it. Was very fortunate to have that type of career time here in Chicago and shared by a lot of people and feeling that today."

Before officially welcoming back Quenneville, the Blackhawks honored Patrick Kane with a special pregame ceremony after he became the 90th player in NHL history to record 1,000 points and fourth to do so in franchise history. It was a perfect way to kick off the night, and it set the bar high for the next ovation.

After the first TV timeout, the Blackhawks aired a 60-second video tribute for Quenneville that included some of his best bench reactions and celebrations from their playoff victories and three Stanley Cup runs. It was impossible to encapsulate what he's meant to the organization over a one-minute span, but the more important part was that Blackhawks fans finally got a chance to thank Quenneville for everything he did by giving him a deafening ovation that seemingly never ended.

"That felt unbelievable," Quenneville said. "It was a great feeling. Captured some special moments in the building when the enthusiasm and the excitement and the noise and Kaner’s starting the game off like that, and the building was rocking. It felt like a different game. Had some importance to it. It was special. It was kind of like saying thank you to me and I was thanking them, and it was all good. Felt great. That was certainly a memorable ovation I’m thankful for."

Seeing Quenneville behind the visiting bench was going to be strange for everyone. The fans, the media, the organization. And even the players.

"You just think things are going to stay the same forever and it’s weird when things change and guys go to other teams," Jonathan Toews said. "Coach Q just felt like a staple with this organization, this city as well."

In fitting fashion, the Blackhawks rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the second period by scoring three of the next four goals to make it an exciting finish. But it was the Panthers who prevailed on Q night.

To cap off the memorable evening, Quenneville addressed a large herd of reporters one final time before exiting the arena. But not before making his way to Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Toews and giving each of them hugs to show his love and appreciation for His Guys.

"When I left here, the bitterness that you think you might have leaving from here would have been prevalent," Quenneville said. "But I didn’t have any of that type of feeling. The memories were too special, and recapturing it here immediately, you can have the same sense of why it was like that. And show a lot of appreciation for everyone here. It’s a great place to play, special fans, fun building and great organization. So thanks."

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3 Takeaways: Joel Quenneville returns to United Center, Patrick Kane honored for 1,000th point

3 Takeaways: Joel Quenneville returns to United Center, Patrick Kane honored for 1,000th point

The Blackhawks lost 4-3 to the Florida Panthers, but welcomed former head coach Joel Quenneville back to Chicago and honored Patrick Kane for capturing his 1,000th NHL point. Here are three takeaways:

Welcome back, "Q"

Quenneville returned to the United Center for the first time since being fired on Nov. 6, 2018. Coach Q now the head coach of the Panthers (third place in the Atlantic Division), received a thunderous ovation during a video tribute from the Hawks organization in the first period. 

"I think that ovation was incredible," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "I think all of us that played for him were all smiles. His ovation might have been bigger than Kaner's, I don't know. Close call. But obviously, the fans showing him lots of respect and love... pretty cool to see."

"Q" guided the Blackhawks through three Stanley Cup championships (2010, 2013, 2015) and helped end a 49-year cup drought in Chicago in 2010. Quenneville returned to face the red-hot Hawks, who had won five-straight games, with his red-hot Panthers, who had also won five straight prior to Tuesday.

"You got to give them a little credit," Quenneville said of Jeremy Colliton's Blackhawks before the game. "They're playing fast, they've got some speed in their lineup. They're quick in all lines. They can score, they're dangerous. 

"I think we've got to be respectful for what their rush game can bring and I think that it was kind of reminiscent when I talk about our team a lot. I say we can always score goals. 

"It's 'try to keep it out of our net' is a priority and we've been scoring a lot of goals and we want to make sure we can get better without the puck, and I think that's been a work in progress for us but it's [a] comparable time in our team's development right now. But we're seeing progress and I think tonight that's going to be a good test of how well we defend."

#PK1K

The Blackhawks held a ceremony before the game to honor Kane for recording his 1,000th NHL point off an assist in Sunday's 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. The ceremony included a video of the superstar winger as a small child saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the greatest show on earth.”

Kane is the 90th player in NHL history to reach the milestone and the youngest US-born player (31 years, 61 days) to record 1,000 points in the show.

On Tuesday, Kane scored with 1:15 remaining in regulation to bring the Blackhawks within one of the Panthers, extending his point streak to 11 games (five goals, 11 assists), but it wouldn't be enough.

Streak snapped

The Hawks' five-game winning streak ended and they remain three points out of a wild card spot. Their next game won't be until Feb. 1 in Arizona with the All-Star break and bye week. 

A horrid second period is what did the Hawks in on Tuesday. Chicago gave up four second-period goals, including a hat trick from Frank Vatrano. 

The Blackhawks did see contributions from Kirby Dach, who scored off a backhand over Sergei Bobrovsky's shoulder. Dach, who turned 19 on Tuesday, ended a 13-game goal drought, making it 3-1 in the second period. Drake Caggiula scored off a redirect on a third-period power play to make it 4-2. Caggiula has five points (three goals, two assists) in his past four games after returning from a concussion on Jan. 9.

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