Blackhawks

Why Vinnie Hinostroza has been a hidden gem for Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Why Vinnie Hinostroza has been a hidden gem for Blackhawks

When looking back on the 2017-18 season, it's easy to single out Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz as the two most notable silver linings for the Blackhawks, both of whom showed real promise as important pieces going forward.

But lost in the shuffle — or quietly flying under the radar — has been Vinnie Hinostroza, in part because he started the year in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs when he probably didn't deserve to.

"Obviously I wanted to start off the year here, but going down there, I knew that if I played well I'd be back up here and that's what they told me leaving camp," Hinostroza said. "I got to go down there, play a lot of minutes, play in every situation. I learned a lot and I think it helped my game."

It was perhaps more-so a numbers game, and Hinostroza was a guy the Blackhawks could send to Rockford without having to go through the waiver process. It also wasn't the worst thing for his long-term development.

Not surprisingly, Hinostroza flourished with the IceHogs by averaging nearly a point-per-game with nine goals and 13 assists in 23 games. He was more than ready to be promoted.

It just took a while because the Blackhawks were carrying the maximum amount of skaters (23) and there weren't any injuries to open up a spot.

Eventually, the Blackhawks decided they couldn't ignore his offensive production any longer and placed Tanner Kero on waivers — which he cleared — to make room for Hinostroza, who was recalled on Dec. 8.

And when he finally got his chance with the big club, Hinostroza took advantage.

He set career-highs in all three scoring categories with seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 50 games despite having only two points in the final 15 contests.

The underlying numbers supported his value, too.

When Hinostroza was on the ice at even strength, the Blackhawks controlled 54.57 percent of the shot attempts and had a high-danger Goals For percentage of 58.33, according to naturalstattrick.com.

He also had a points-per-60 minutes rate of 1.98 during 5-on-5 play; only Patrick Kane had a higher one (2.16) on the Blackhawks.

Hinostroza did all this while bouncing around from the first line to the fourth line, meaning it gave Joel Quenneville the luxury to put him anywhere and expect his offensive production to stay the same. His versatility in that sense, along with being able to play any of the three forward positions, makes him a valuable piece of this club.

The Blackhawks know that, and envision him as part of the long-term picture. Not bad for the Bartlett native who was taken in the sixth round (169th overall) in 2012 by his hometown team.

"I want to make it clear our No. 1 priority as we move forward is to make sure we can keep these young players — DeBrincat and Schmaltz and Hinostroza and some other young players that are going to maybe join our team over the next year or two," GM Stan Bowman said. "That's the direction that we're headed, and we want those guys to be Blackhawks and to take a bigger role."

David Ayres joins Scott Foster in making emergency backup goalie history

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USA TODAY

David Ayres joins Scott Foster in making emergency backup goalie history

David Ayres is a 42-year-old Zamboni driver and, as of Saturday night, he is a man who has won a game as a netminder in the NHL.

Ayres is the emergency backup goalie (EBUG) for the Carolina Hurricanes, who are currently locked in a tight playoff race in the Eastern Conference. On Saturday, Ayres was thrust into action when Carolina suffered injuries to both starting goalie James Reimer and backup goalie Petr Mrazek. This, of course, made us think back to Chicago's favorite EBUG, Scott Foster.

Foster, an accountant, became a household name when he donned the No. 90 EBUG jersey when he debuted for the Blackhawks in 2018. Chicago was down a goalie when starting goalie Collin Delia — who was filling in for an injured Corey Crawford — went down early. This led to Foster making his unlikely seven-save debut. He was the first EBUG in NHL history to actually make a save and the fact that Foster was a perfect 7-for-7 in his time on the ice made the story even sweeter.

On Saturday, Ayres didn't maintain a perfect 1.000 save percentage like Foster but he did make some history of his own. Ayres was rattled at first, giving up two goals on the first two shots he faced but he did enough down the stretch to help the Hurricanes hold on to a quite important 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the win, Ayres is the first EBUG in league history to net a win, as Delia was credited with the win in Foster's debut in 2018.

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Rockford IceHogs matchup with Milwaukee Admirals produces the rare goalie fight

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USA TODAY

Rockford IceHogs matchup with Milwaukee Admirals produces the rare goalie fight

On Saturday night the Rockford IceHogs fell 7-2 to the Milwaukee Admirals but fans still went home happy as they got see one of the rarest occurrences in the sport of hockey: the always intriguing goalie fight.

With Rockford trailing 6-2, IceHogs goalie Matt Tomkins — who gave up the six goals on 21 shots — and Admirals goalie decided to drop the gloves and engage in some good ol' fashioned fisticuffs, the first scrap of the year for Tomkins. 

We'll leave it up to you to decide who won the fight but the Admirals certainly won the game in convincing fashion, with Milwaukee center Yakov Trenin netting a hat trick in the 7-2 win. But despite taking the tough loss, it was nice to see the IceHogs (and IndyFuel) social media having some fun with what was ultimately a very entertaining game.

The Rockford IceHogs are back in action against the Chicago Wolves on Sunday at 3 pm, with both teams locked in a tight battle for the fourth playoff spot in the Central division. 

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.