Blackhawks

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-3 comeback win over Blues: The ultimate spoiler

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-3 comeback win over Blues: The ultimate spoiler

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 comeback win over the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center on Wednesday night:

1. Duncan Keith helps spoil Blues playoff chances.

Ever since the Blackhawks were eliminated from playoff contention, they've talked about how fun it would be to play spoiler for teams fighting for a seat at the table. This had to feel good.

Keith scored the game-winning goal on the power play with 8.5 seconds in the third period to cap a two-goal comeback, ultimately blocking the Blues from picking up not only a crucial two points, but one after it looked like the game would head into overtime.

It was the first time this season the Blues had lost in regulation when leading after two periods (31-1-2). They remain one point behind the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

It also had to feel great for the two-time Norris Trophy winner, who's been snake-bitten all season long and ended a 21-game goal drought.

Going into the matchup, Keith had one goal on 183 shots for a shooting percentage of 0.5, which is unheard of even for a defenseman. By scoring his second goal, Keith doubled his shooting percentage to 1.0 percent (2-for-186).

2. Alex DeBrincat's quest for 30.

The scoring race for the team lead in goals continues to be an entertaining battle to watch between Patrick Kane and DeBrincat, the latter of whom has regained sole possession of first. And it'll likely go down to the wire.

It was a terrific shot by the 20-year-old rookie for his 28th of the season, but one that probably should've been stopped by Blues netminder Jake Allen.

DeBrincat told reporters in St. Louis before the game that 30 is a number he's shooting for as the season winds down: "I want to reach that goal, but it's going to be pretty tough to do," he said. "We'll see."

Two more to go with two games left.

3. Blake Hillman latest to score first career NHL goal.

In his second career NHL game, Hillman got on the scoresheet and did so in a big way.

Trailing 3-1 in the middle of the second period, Keith committed a hooking penalty that gave the Blues an opportunity to make it a three-goal lead. Instead, the former NCAA champion at Denver University scored a shorthanded goal with an absolute missile from the point to cut the Blackhawks' deficit to 3-2.

He's the third Blackhawks player in the last 30 seasons whose first career NHL goal was a shorthanded one, joining Jake Dowell (Nov. 22, 2007) and Mike Hudson (Oct. 12, 1988), according to TSN's StatsCentre.

Hillman also became the seventh Blackhawks player this season to score his first career NHL goal, joining Jan Rutta, DeBrincat, Jordan Oesterle, David Kampf, Erik Gustafsson and Matthew Highmore.

And it's certainly possible that number could increase before it's all said and done, with Victor Ejdsell and Dylan Sikura as candidates to get their firsts as well.

4. Andreas Martinsen turns in best effort of season.

If you're looking for someone who had an impact in practically every aspect of the game, it's Martinsen. He was all over the scoresheet: six shot attempts, a team-high five shots on goal, two hits and one takeaway in a season-high 14:03 of ice time.

Oh yeah, and he also scored his first goal of the season when his shot trickled past Allen in the first period to tie things up at 1-1. A perfect reward to his best performance of the season, hands down.

5. J-F Berube keeps Blackhawks in it.

Say what you want about Berube, but the Blackhawks don't win this game without him.

Yes, he allowed another soft goal on Robert Bortuzzo that made it 1-0, but this guy is a battler. He stays with it and doesn't get fazed when he gives up a goal he knows he should've had. 

He faced 29 shots in the first two periods, a couple of which were breakaways and another handful that turned into odd-man rushes, then stopped all five in the third frame to finish with 31 saves on 34 shots for a .912 save percentage.

Expect him to get another shot against St. Louis on Friday. He's earned it.

Stan Bowman explains how Blackhawks may utilize extra cap space

Stan Bowman explains how Blackhawks may utilize extra cap space

The Blackhawks had cap space to use this summer but elected to shore up their depth rather than make a splash when free agency opened up on July 1. Perhaps a large reason for that was because Marian Hossa's $5.275 million cap hit over the next three years complicated what they could do exactly in the short term without jeopardizing the long term.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman admitted Tuesday that they had had discussions about moving Hossa's contract for a year now. But it finally reached a point where they simply needed to get it off their hands, even if it meant giving up Vinnie Hinostroza as a sweetener.

"We tried to make that deal work in every other way possible but they obviously said he had to be in it," Bowman said of including Hinostroza.

That's how important it was to free up even more cap space. By trading Hossa's contract in a nine-piece trade with the Arizona Coyotes, it created more options for the Blackhawks and financial flexibility going forward.

"It was a difficult trade from a sentimental perspective, because we'd love to not have to do that," Bowman said. "But on the practical matter, it was becoming challenging to try to operate with that contract here. It necessitated us trying to make the move that we did make. You don't know when those opportunities are going to come to try and make that type of a move. ... When this presented itself, we talked it through and got to the point where we thought it was something we had to take advantage of."

The problem for the short term is, it's mid-July and the big-name free agents are off the market. There's not much the Blackhawks can do to improve their roster externally unless they make a trade, which would require dipping into the pipeline.

And it's unfair to put a grade on the Hossa trade as a whole without seeing how they utilize that extra cap space. Could that be before the 2018-19 season starts?

"It's an option if we can find the right player or the right situation," Bowman said. "We certainly have more options now than we did before. I wouldn't say we have to do something. Having cap space is an asset in and of itself, so things will come along maybe in the summer or maybe in the beginning part of the year where teams have a couple players that make their team unexpectedly and that makes some other players more expendable. In the past we probably haven't really been a good match for those types of situations because we didn't have the cap room at that time, so now we're going to be in the mix for those types of things.

"Whether we use it right away or whether we use it during the season, I think the nice thing is we have the flexibility now going in to the coming years where we're going to need cap room, all that and more, to sign the young players."

It doesn't sound like there's much urgency to pull something off between now and when training camp rolls around in September. At least for now.

That doesn't mean there won't be once the market picks back up again. 

"Each year teams have surprises, good and bad, in camp," Bowman said. "Our team’s the same way. You have ideas on how your lines are going to look or how your players are going to be ready. Sometimes guys surprise you in a good way, sometimes it’s not what you think. There’ll be some adjustments around the league, but probably not a lot of activity.

"If you look back the last couple of seasons, late July and August are quieter as far as transactions. But there are some arbitration cases coming up around the league; those may get settled ahead of time. But if they do go to arbitration, if the number's not the way the team likes it, they may look to do something. There’s the possibility of moves, but probably closer to training camp is more when changes may happen."

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

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AP

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.