Comeback over Canucks should give Blackhawks’ youth confidence

Comeback over Canucks should give Blackhawks’ youth confidence

EDMONTON, Alberta – Vinnie Hinostroza leapt toward the glass in jubilation, his Blackhawks teammates surrounding and congratulating him.

From an individual standpoint, it was Hinostroza’s first career NHL goal. From a team standpoint, it was a rookie contributing in a big way at a critical time, and Hinostroza wasn’t alone in that respect. When the Blackhawks needed goals and strong play in the third period on Saturday night, young players supplied both.

So could a game like that be a boon for the Blackhawks’ youth movement?

“Yeah, when you look at Vinnie getting his first and Hartsy on a great play. We know these guys can score. They play the right way, you can put them in situations all over the ice and against most players in a game. There’s some progression there,” coach Joel Quenneville said following the Blackhawks’ 4-3 overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks. “Whether producing or not, playing the right way will be the best way for them to get better.”

Five of the Blackhawks’ six rookies were in Saturday’s lineup. Hartman scored his second goal in as many games. Hinostroza, returning from a concussion, had a goal and two assists. Tyler Motte, back from a lower-body injury, looked like he hadn’t missed a step and left Quenneville impressed. Nick Schmaltz, getting another top-line chance with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, was a strong defender in the third period.

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It’s one thing for the rookies to contribute but it’s also under what circumstances. They could’ve gotten jittery in the third period, which the Blackhawks entered trailing 3-0. But taking the veterans’ lead, they became big components of the comeback.

Quenneville has said often that he doesn’t care who scores for the Blackhawks. At the same time, the Blackhawks are relying on a lot of youth this season and they need those guys to step up, with production as much as all-around play. Several things hurt the Blackhawks last season but among them was finding secondary scoring; there just wasn’t much to go around their bottom six last season, and that has to change. The Blackhawks are also looking for four lines they can rely on, and the young guys are helping that situation.

“It helps all the guys who do it every night, the Kanes, the [Artemi] Panarins – well, Bread Man did it tonight but it’s great to get the secondary scoring,” Scott Darling said. “It’s huge for them. You could tell everyone was following the leads of the veterans in the third period. They were all playing like a Toews, like a [Marian] Hossa, giving 100 percent, making great defensive plays and turning it into great offense.”

Saturday’s game should be a confidence boost for the Blackhawks’ young players. Sure, the veterans led the way with the upbeat second-intermission vibes. The rookies, nevertheless, had to believe it. They didn’t just buy into the possibility of a comeback. They helped attain it.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Kirby Dach on road to NHL, role with Blackhawks and rapid fire Q&A

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Kirby Dach on road to NHL, role with Blackhawks and rapid fire Q&A

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis goes 1-on-1 with Kirby Dach to discuss what the past five months have been like since being drafted No. 3 overall, his reaction after finding out he would stay with the Blackhawks past the nine-game tryout and what he's learned the most at the NHL level.

They also play a fun game of rapid-fire Q&A, which includes his favorite cheat day meal, the last concert he attended, NHL players he looked up to as a kid and more.

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 


Blackhawks Talk Podcast


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Erik Gustafsson is back to looking like player he was last season for Blackhawks

Erik Gustafsson is back to looking like player he was last season for Blackhawks

Less than three weeks ago, Erik Gustafsson fell out of the rotation for the Blackhawks. The offensive production wasn’t there and the defensive part of his game was trending in the wrong direction.

Since being healthy scratched on Nov. 2 against Los Angeles, Gustafsson has looked like a different player. He’s starting to resemble the impact-type player he was last season when he became one of six NHL defensemen to finish with at least 60 points.

And it’s because he’s getting back to his roots.

“I don’t know how, from a scratch, my confidence can get up so fast but I feel like myself a little bit more now,” Gustafsson told NBC Sports Chicago. “I got a video guy that I worked with last year and working with him right now and went back and looked at those videos a couple days ago and it's just a whole other player from last year and now. I just wanted to come back to that moment. I felt like I was having fun out there and not thinking too much.

“I think my defensive part is better than last year but I just want to get back to when I have the puck and I've felt pretty good now the past four games, so let's keep it going."

Gustafsson said that after morning skate on Wednesday. He followed it up by scoring his first goal of the season later that night in a 5-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, roofing a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to end a 16-game goal drought.

“He just looks much more confident with the puck,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “He’s cleaner. He still has a couple turnovers here and there but he’s going to turn it over every once in a while. We just want him to try to be as clean as he can and situationally manage when he’s going to try and do those things.”

It helps that Gustafsson is back to earning top minutes, which he admitted is beneficial because if he has a bad shift he doesn’t have to dwell on it too long. But Colliton is trying walk the line of giving Gustafsson enough rope to make mistakes while also holding him responsible for his play.

“It’s a balance,” Colliton said. “Because you’ve got to earn the minutes you get and if you’re not doing the job then your minutes will go down. But at the same time, I don’t believe that if you make one mistake you should get the hook. That’s a tough way to play when you’re always worried if I make one mistake, you’re going to be punished for it or whatever it may be. So as a coach, that’s the balance, the line we walk to try to get the most out of every player but also make sure there’s accountability.”

Earlier in the season, Gustafsson was consumed by trying to develop a defense-first mentality without taking away from his offensive instincts. Now he’s gotten back to focusing on the strengths of his game rather than the weaknesses, and it’s allowed him to play looser. 

"I think it was a lot of parts like moving my feet, skating,” Gustafsson said of what he noticed during video sessions of his play last season vs. this season. “It's a big part about my game, too. I have to skate a lot. Last year when I got a guy on me I just faked going one side and went to the other side and just skated and tried to find that open lane to pass it. And I think at the start of this season I just wanted to get rid of the puck right away. I don't know if it's just confidence or something, but I think I’m moving my feet much better now than I did my first 10 games."

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