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.
[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear here!]
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.