Red-hot Alex DeBrincat sparks Blackhawks in win over Rangers

Red-hot Alex DeBrincat sparks Blackhawks in win over Rangers

A break. A fortunate bounce. A squeaker of a goal. Recently the Blackhawks haven’t had a lot of the puck luck that hockey teams talk about all the time. But when Alex DeBrincat’s shot slipped through New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist late in the second period, the Blackhawks got a big break and didn’t let it go to waste.

Through most of the third period the Blackhawks looked like a more familiar group, one that was opportunistic around loose pucks and rebounds. Artem Anisimov was the main benefactor, scoring a natural hat trick – his first career hat trick – in the Blackhawks’ 6-3 victory against his former team. But the Blackhawks’ overall reaction in the opening minutes of the third period is something they need to build on going forward.

“It was a huge goal for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We had a good second period and did a lot of good things and that all of a sudden gets us excited about the third and we had a great beginning.”

The Blackhawks were doing more right in the second period, outside of their power play late in the period. Several in the United Center crowd booed as the Blackhawks came up empty on that advantage, but DeBrincat’s goal not long after changed the crowd’s mood and momentum.

“It’s DeBrincat’s goal. That was the spark. [It was] like, OK, we have a tight game right now, we sat and [thought] about it in the locker room: just go out there and play,” Anisimov said. “It was an important goal for our team game and at the end of the period it gives us a little boost for the third period and we just kept going.”

The Blackhawks needed to reverse their fortunes. There wasn’t much working for them lately; on nights when Corey Crawford was outstanding they couldn’t score and when they did erupt for seven goals on Sunday he had an off night. On Wednesday the Blackhawks were more opportunistic, less panicky when the Rangers started to come back in the third period and composed enough to get a much-needed two points.

And it all started with that DeBrincat goal.

“I think it was kind of a lucky one, just a shot on net trying to create something and it happened to squeak through and gave us a lot of momentum there,” DeBrincat said. “Shoot the puck is the lesson there: good things can happen when you shoot the puck on net."

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?


Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.