Andrew Shaw comparisons aside, Ryan Hartman succeeding with his own game

Andrew Shaw comparisons aside, Ryan Hartman succeeding with his own game

Vinnie Hinostroza remembers playing hockey against good friend and (now) teammate Ryan Hartman, starting when they were seven years old.

“He was one of the toughest kids in the area to play against,” Hinostroza said. “You never wanted to play against him, even when there wasn’t checking.”

So basically, Hartman has always played this energy-driven, sandpaper game. It just so happens that his game is a lot like former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw’s. So when Shaw was traded, the inevitable questions arose. Who was going to take Shaw’s place in the lineup? Who was going to bring Shaw’s agitation? Who was going to bring Shaw’s net-front presence? It was all about someone being “the next Shaw”.

While Hartman has replaced Shaw in some aspects, he is not, nor was he ever, trying to be Shaw. And so far this season Hartman’s been playing his game pretty well and creating his own identity with the Blackhawks.

So maybe it’s time for us to give Hartman credit for being a good player in his own right, and not a guy trying to be another guy.

“Andrew came into the league and built his own path and became the player he is by his own play and his own game,” Hartman said. “I’m just looking to do the same thing.”

Hartman has given a boost to the Blackhawks, and he’s currently on a line with Marian Hossa and Hinostroza. He was especially good on the Blackhawks’ Circus Trip, during which he had three goals in seven games including the game winner against Anaheim on Friday. He’s been agitating. He’s been aggressive. So far he’s also done all that while staying on the right side of the discipline line. In 19 games this season, Hartman has just two penalty minutes.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Hinostroza said Hartman’s succeeding with his own game.

“That’s always been his identity. He’s not trying to be someone else,” Hinostroza said. “So it’s important he sticks to that and people will really start seeing how he plays. Hopefully he can keep it up.”

Much like several other rookies, Hartman is taking advantage of an opportunity. Another offseason purge and another tight salary-cap situation opened the door for some of the Blackhawks’ prospects. Hartman is especially noticeable against the Blackhawks’ more physical opponents.

“I think he’s always had a little edge to his game that he needs to bring every shift,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You notice him. He’s abrasive in the puck area, he goes to the hard areas, comes up with loose pucks and can make a play in tight areas, which is his game. Physicality — you look at our lineup, guys who can enhance our team physically in any way, we don’t mind that. He brings that element that we appreciate.”

He’s also brought offense, good for a team that needs more secondary scoring. So what’s been working for him?

“It’s a mix of a lot. Finding chemistry with line mates, with other players, a little bit of puck-luck too. Pucks have come onto my stick in good areas at times. We’ve been getting some wins, too, which helps,” Hartman said. “It’s a good thing I’ve been able to score. There’ve been a few posts and other chances, a couple of open nets I should’ve scored on, too. But hopefully I can continue helping out on the scoresheet.”

Hartman is here because the Blackhawks had players to replace, including Shaw. But he should be known for his own game, for his own contributions.

“I’m just coming along game by game,” Hartman said. “[I’m] playing the way I’ve always played and just trying to build a career from there.”

Fan captures exhilarating view of Alex DeBrincat's game-winning goal against Nashville

Fan captures exhilarating view of Alex DeBrincat's game-winning goal against Nashville

Ever sit rinkside for an NHL game? Ever sit behind a goal? Ever get to see a game-winning goal with the goal-scorer rushing right toward you on a breakaway?

A fan captured such a moment on video and put it on Reddit. User nhammer11 had exhilarating footage of Alex DeBrincat’s breakaway game-winning overtime goal against Nashville on Friday.

I know it's a couple of days late but we had some good seats the other night and the gf got an amazing video of Cat's ot goal. from r/hawks

The Blackhawks have lost twice since DeBrincat beat Pekka Rinne on this play, but it is a fun clip to watch.

Stan Bowman lays out big picture plan for Blackhawks

Stan Bowman lays out big picture plan for Blackhawks

ST. LOUIS — The NHL trade deadline has passed, and the Blackhawks sold off two key pieces from their roster who were on expiring contracts to recoup some draft picks and prospects to their pipeline. They had no choice to if neither player was going to be part of their long-term plans.

The return was underwhelming in large part because of how the market played out, but that isn't the real problem. It's the fact the Blackhawks are in a position where they subtracted from the roster because they're at risk of missing out on the playoffs for a third straight season.

GM Stan Bowman met with the media in St. Louis before Tuesday's game and was asked to provide an outline of the big picture plan going forward.

"The biggest thing in today's game is having young players play an important role," Bowman said. "The last couple years we've picked in the top 10. We hadn't picked there since we picked Patrick [Kane in 2007]. So I think that's where you get some of those high-end players. The challenge is to try to get as many as those as you can and then build from that way out. Luckily, we still have some other established players that are difference-makers.

"But to answer your question simply, the way you become a really dominant team is you have some high-impact players and you need to have as many of them as you can assemble, but they're not easy to come by. Certainly hard to trade for. I guess it happens rarely when they become available. You typically have to draft them or develop them. Maybe trade for them or sign them as free agents. When you're signing a free agent, unless it's a European guy, they tend to be older and they might have some good years left, but their best years are probably behind them. There's no shortcut to it other than drafting and developing those players, so then the question is how do you acquire those? And that's what we've been trying to do.

"We've been trying to acquire either young prospects or draft choices that we can use to hopefully find that next group. And then there's a little bit of a lag where you have to allow them to develop. Some of them, obviously Kirby [Dach] is the exception to be able to come right in. Usually it takes a little bit of time. Adam [Boqvist] it took one year, now he's already in the NHL. For defensemen, that's a pretty quick ascent to the top. But we have to have a little bit of patience for those players to have time to develop. But you need to have those high-value assets, and we're trying to get as many as those as we can."

To summarize it best: the Blackhawks are in a "lag" period.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are still at the top of their games at age 31, Duncan Keith has a lot of hockey left in him and Corey Crawford is showing no immediate signs of slowing down. Alex DeBrincat is part of that second wave, and you figure Dylan Strome is too. Dominik Kubalik is playing his way into that conversation as well.

And then there's Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach, both of whom broke into the NHL this season as teenagers and have the highest ceilings of them all to turn into elite difference-makers because of where they were drafted. The challenge is balancing patience in their development while helping them get to their prime level as quickly as possible so it coincides with whatever high-level years of hockey Kane, Toews and the other core veterans have. 

There will surely be conversations within the organization over the offseason about the direction of the Blackhawks. Kane hopes the players can provide input to some degree.

"I think it's good to ask the players what they think, to be honest with you," Kane said. "We're the ones who are playing every night. We see what's going on in the locker room. We see who's tough to play against in the league, what teams are tough to play against. That would be a good road to go."

Bowman said he doesn't believe it's necessarily fair to bring the players into the decision-making process but admitted the leadership group has earned the respect to have their voices heard based on what they've accomplished in Chicago.

"If we knew exactly what the future held then you could have that conversation, but it's just a lot of guess work on everybody's part as far as nobody knows what our team's going to be year to year," Bowman said. "You have a plan on what you're doing, but then life happens, and things change. You have to have the willingness to adapt to what's in front of you, so I think that's why their job is to play hockey and they're very good at that and we let them do that.

"The other stuff, you might have conversations in the offseason more-so; day to day, talking to players about the management of the team, that's not the way sports work."

The Blackhawks are taking a long-term approach to their retooling process and it's difficult to predict when everything is going to line back up to not just be battling for a playoff berth but become perennial Stanley Cup contenders again. Are the Blackhawks on board with that?

"I mean, that’s the goal," Toews said. "Anything less than that is disappointing and frustrating."

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