Antoine Vermette wins it in double OT as Blackhawks tie series


Antoine Vermette wins it in double OT as Blackhawks tie series

Antoine Vermette’s frustration with his Game 3 scratch was apparent the following day.

“I was not happy with that,” Vermette said on Friday. “But my job is to be ready whenever I have a chance to be in the lineup, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Ready, he was.

Vermette scored the winning goal in double overtime, and the Blackhawks overcame a three-goals-in-37-seconds barrage by Anaheim to beat the Ducks 5-4 on Saturday night. The Blackhawks and Ducks are tied 2-2 in the Western Conference Finals series, which continues with Game 5 in Anaheim on Monday night.

[MORE: Five Things from Game 4 - Blackhawks back with a bang]

Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews scored their first goals of this series. Brent Seabrook also scored for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford stopped 47 of 51 shots, including all 17 the Ducks had in the first overtime, for the victory.

For Vermette, there was no bitterness as he sat at the podium following Saturday’s game. There was also no it’s-about-me talk, with that game-winning goal lessening the scratch frustration.

“I mean, at the same time you don’t want to make an individual a story,” Vermette said. “The main focus is about the team’s success. That’s all that matters, so I’m glad we won tonight.”

Coach Joel Quenneville called Vermette, “a great pro.”

“I was very happy for him. What a huge goal for him and for us,” he said. “What makes our game so great is that players are so competitive, they want to play in the worst way and want more ice time as well. You can understand where he was at, very disappointed. But he stayed with it. That line had a couple of looks in overtime and I’m glad he finished it because that was a huge, huge goal. Huge.”

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It wasn’t looking like the Blackhawks would even get to overtime after the Ducks scored three times in 37 seconds in the third period. The Blackhawks had just taken a 3-1 lead on Seabrook’s goal when Ryan Kesler scored barely a minute later. Then Matt Beleskey and Corey Perry also scored, putting the Ducks up 4-3 midway through the third period.

“We played a pretty good hockey game in regulation and go up 3-1 and probably would havebeen a tough one to swallow if we would have lost that, especially in regulation,” Brad Richards said. “Glad I don’t have to talk about it and it’s just a what-if now.”

It is that, because Patrick Kane evened it at 4-4 with his power-play goal at 12:39 of the third period. After getting through the Ducks’ shooting barrage of the first overtime, Vermette scored his winner on a second-chance effort 5:37 into the second one.

How Vermette handled the Game 3 scratch on the inside is anyone’s guess. But he handled it well on the surface and couldn’t have capped his return any better.

“The emotion in the corner was pretty fun,” Vermette said of the post-game euphoria. “This is a fun group and we had a fun celebration. Hopefully we can do it again.”

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

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

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

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

Oliver Wahlstrom

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 205 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Wahlstrom already has an NHL-caliber shot with a quick release and the ability to create space for himself and linemates. He's most known for his goal-scoring ability and elite shot, and can hit a one-timer as good or better than many professional players."

NHL player comparable: Phil Kessel

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would probably prefer to take a defenseman at No. 8, but because four of them might go inside the Top 7, the best available player on the board is likely to be a forward. And there's a decent chance that could be Wahlstrom.

Wahlstrom would immediately become Chicago's top prospect, and a player that has the potential to slide into the top six when he reaches the NHL — whenever that may be.

He's committed to college for the 2018-19 season, so it's doubtful he would join the team until at least 2019-20, but Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said in our draft preview edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast that it wouldn't deter them from picking him. 

And it shouldn't, because you don't want to waste a player of his caliber's entry-level years developing in the minors if he's not ready yet.

"I think the way we would evaluate it is, we project them, we try to get a timeline on when we think they might be NHL ready," Kelley said. "But we're also looking for where they are in their development curve and want their ceiling is. I think in some players, you have to be a little bit more patient for them to reach their ceiling. That doesn't necessarily mean that players can't exceed their development curve, I think we saw that with Alex DeBrincat last year."