Blackhawks

Alex DeBrincat has played well all year, but now the goals are coming and that's good for the Blackhawks

Alex DeBrincat has played well all year, but now the goals are coming and that's good for the Blackhawks

Alex DeBrincat was coming off a great individual weekend, four points (including three goals) through two games that went in very different directions for the Blackhawks. And DeBrincat’s focus was more on the latter than on his own numbers.

“It’s nice to have. I mean, the first game (vs. Carolina) was a pretty big win for us and we had a good start to the second game (vs. New Jersey) but we kind of fell apart there,” he said. “It just would’ve been better if we had won both games, but it’s kind of a good start for me to keep moving from.”

Let’s be clear: DeBrincat has played well pretty much from the start. There’s a reason he made this team out of camp and even if he’s not scoring points, he’s shown a good all-around game that the Blackhawks have liked. Points, nevertheless, are always encouraging.

“Well, we’ve been encouraged every single day we’ve seen him this year. Out of camp, (the questions were) could he handle the pace, the size, the strength, the intelligence of different players? How he could play without the puck and defensively, was he strong enough to overcome that part of his game? On both sides of the puck he gives us great instincts, play recognition,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The fact he’s starting to score a little bit more gives us an added sniper. But he does a lot of good things, not just scoring. He compliments your team game.”

Usually going on a scoring tear means moving up in the lineup, but for now DeBrincat remains on the Blackhawks’ third line — he skated there Tuesday with Patrick Sharp and Tommy Wingels. He and Sharp have worked together a good amount this season, so there’s familiarity there. Sharp’s been impressed with what he’s seen from DeBrincat from the start and said DeBrincat’s recent scoring burst should boost his confidence.

“Being a guy who’s scored in streaks and bunches, as well, I know what it feels like to get a couple. I think it started a week or two ago with those empty-net goals. They all mean the same at the end of the day; makes you hold your head up a little higher, feel good about yourself,” Sharp said. “You can see his confidence with the puck. He’s going to the dangerous areas, and guys that he’s playing with, they’re starting to find him now. He’s a good goal scorer, we knew that, and it seems like he’s hitting his stride right now.”

DeBrincat started this season on the right, went back to his more familiar left and has bounced back to the right. Doesn’t seem to matter anymore which side he plays, outside of one thing.

“It’s a matter of remembering what side you’re on to get back in the zone,” DeBrincat said with a laugh. “No, it doesn’t really matter. I think it’s pretty easy for me to change around. I’ve played every position, so it’s not too bad.”

The Blackhawks already knew what they had in DeBrincat. Still, racking up some points for a team that — outside of Sunday — has struggled to do so bodes well for the Blackhawks’ team game and his individual confidence.

Blackhawks are one of NHL's hottest teams, but have they turned a corner?

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USA Today

Blackhawks are one of NHL's hottest teams, but have they turned a corner?

For the first two and a half months of the season, the Blackhawks were battling through major inconsistency issues. They had won more than two games in a row just once and lost at least three straight five times.

And yet somehow, the Blackhawks still found themselves afloat in the Western Conference playoff race. 

But the tide has finally started to turn.

Since Dec. 15, the Blackhawks are 12-5-0 and have the fourth-most standings points in the NHL over that span with 24. They’ve also won a season-long five consecutive games and have a plus-13 goal differential during their winning streak.

Now, there are certainly some statistical trends that are unsustainable over the long term that could result in a market correction. Their on-ice shooting percentage (13.0) and save percentage (94.7) at 5-on-5 play during their winning streak is a combined 107.7, which is the second-highest in the league over that stretch.

But the Blackhawks are playing a brand of hockey that will win them games more often than not going forward: The top guys are producing, the depth scoring is there, the defensive structure has tightened up and the goaltending remains strong.

"No question,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said on whether he feels this type of performance will continue to lead to positive results. “We are being rewarded. There's no reason to get away from it. It's paying off and the more it gets into our mentality and our identity that this is who we are, and we'll do this no matter what, it's a habit and you don't think twice about it. We still need to work at preparing to approach the game that way, but when we do it's easier for you and you'll set up your teammates as well."

Perhaps the most notable part of the winning streak is the fact the Blackhawks look like a team that's on the same page after making an in-season schematic adjustment in November, on top of dealing with an array of key injuries. The Blackhawks stayed the course and aren't wavering from their game which we saw them do earlier in the season, whether they're playing with a lead or a deficit. 

Take Sunday's 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets as an example. The Blackhawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, gave up a late goal in the second period that cut their lead to 2-1, but punched back in the third period by scoring twice to pull ahead 4-1, which iced the game.

One month ago, the Blackhawks would probably find a way to squander that two-goal lead. That hasn't been the case over the last month and the Blackhawks are hoping this becomes part of their DNA.

"We're finally starting to full buy-in to the system," Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner said. "Full effort level, doing the right things at the right times. ... Everyone's just doing their job, and we're starting to feel [that] doing those things gets you rewarded and everyone keeps doing it. We're doing well, but we've just got to keep doing it because every point is crucial."

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Jonathan Toews named NHL's Third Star of the week

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USA Today

Jonathan Toews named NHL's Third Star of the week

The Blackhawks (24-20-6, 54 points) are on fire, having won five straight games to vault them back into the Western Conference playoff picture.

Jonathan Toews has been key to that stretch, and on Monday, he was recognized for his recent stellar play by being named the NHL's Third Star of the week. Alex Ovechkin and Elvis Merzlikins nabbed the top two spots:

In four games between Jan. 14 and Jan. 19 (all Blackhawks wins, of course), Toews led the NHL in points with nine (three goals, six assists). And none of them were empty. Among myriad highlights was this game-winning slingshot to beat the Senators 3-2 in overtime to kick off the week (the 15th overtime game-winner of his career):

His two-goal, two-assist outing against the Maple Leaf days later was pretty fun, too:

Toews rides a six-game point streak into Tuesday night's bout with the Florida Panthers. If he extends it, he'll become the sixth player in Blackhawks history to reach 800 career points. 

The milestones and accolades are piling up for The Captain and, crucially, they're translating in the win column for the Blackhawks.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.