Ryan Garbutt steps up in Blackhawks win over Lightning


Ryan Garbutt steps up in Blackhawks win over Lightning

The Blackhawks said they're going to need help from "a little bit of everyone" in Duncan Keith's absence, not just on defense.

On Saturday, it was Ryan Garbutt who noticeably stepped up in the Blackhawks' 1-0 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lighting in a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final, providing a spark on the third line.

"I thought he had a really good game," coach Joel Quenneville said after the game. "Much more speed, much more puck possession. That line was a factor as the game progressed."

Garbutt, who was a healthy scratch last week against Washington, logged 9 minutes, 51 seconds of ice time — his third-lowest of the season — against the Lightning, but his impact was far greater.

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In his previous six games, Garbutt had recorded a total of 11 shots on goal. He also had just two combined shots in his last three games. On Saturday alone, he registered six, all of which came in the first two periods.

"It was just one of those games where there were a lot of chances," Garbutt said. "Unfortunately I couldn't get one past (Lightning goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis), but I feel like the more chances I get, the better I play."

Garbutt, who was acquired from the Dallas Stars in the offseason for Patrick Sharp, admitted he's still trying to get accustomed to playing the Blackhawks' style of play, but on a night they committed four penalties for the second straight game, he proved to be valuable on both special teams and even strength.

"Huge," Jonathan Toews, who scored the game-winning goal 17 seconds into overtime, responded when asked about Garbutt's — and other newcomer Artem Anisimov's — performance. "It's nice to have those two extra guys skating and playing smart defensively in the rotation. I think it keeps more guys involved in the game and obviously a game like tonight, or even the last one against Florida, where we ran into some penalty trouble, we keep our legs fresh when we're (on the penalty kill) and we go back to 5-on-5 too, so those guys have been huge for us so far."

Without Keith, who's expected to miss four-to-six weeks after having surgery to repair a right meniscal tear, the Blackhawks held the Florida Panthers, who were averaging nearly 30 shots per game entering Thursday, to a season-low 18 shots on goal and followed that up by shutting out the reigning Eastern Conference champions, who entered Saturday tied for the sixth-most goals scored and the eighth-ranked power play, picking up exactly where they left off last June.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Not a bad response for a team that lost their ironman on the blue line.

But Garbutt, who knows just how important Keith is on defense despite not being a part of last year's Stanley Cup run, won't take credit for it all.

"I think it's everyone stepping up, forwards and the (defense)," Garbutt said. "We've got guys playing big minutes back there. (Trevor van Riemsdyk) is playing great and getting better every game; same with (Viktor) Svedberg. All those guys are just picking up the slack and everyone's been working a little bit harder."

While he didn't have anything to show for it, Garbutt is slowly finding his rhythm and will look to build off arguably his best performance in a Blackhawks uniform yet.

"It's not easy to score in the National Hockey League," he said. "You've got to make sure to take advantage of your opportunities. I feel like I'm getting better every game."

Brandon Saad joins the Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Brandon Saad joins the Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Throughout the 2019-20 season, NBC Sports Chicago will be unveiling its Blackhawks All-Decade Team. The roster will feature the 14 forwards, 7 defensemen and two goaltenders that made the biggest impact on the franchise from the 2010 through 2019 seasons.

Man Child. The Saad Father. Baby Hoss. Kneel Before Saad.

You’ve got to have a pretty good start to your career to get nicknames and phrases like that coined after you as a 20-something breaking into the league. What Brandon Saad did in the first few seasons of his NHL career certainly qualifies.

After being selected in the second round of the NHL draft in 2011 (a steal, by all accounts), Saad eventually worked his way into the Blackhawks’ lineup and became a key contributor on two Stanley Cup teams…and did so before the age of 23.

Saad has spent parts of seven seasons in Chicago, notching 95 goals and 211 points in 374 games as a member of the Blackhawks. But his presence has been felt even more so in the playoffs. In 67 playoff games with the Hawks, Saad has 15 goals and 19 assists with a plus-16 rating. And if it weren’t for a tough-luck loss in Game 7 against the Kings in the 2014 Western Conference Finals, he might have had his name in consideration for a Conn Smythe Trophy, too.

Unfortunately for Saad, his career might forever be linked to Artemi Panarin’s because of the 2017 trade that brought the power-forward back to Chicago. But for as good as the Panarin/Artem Anisimov/Patrick Kane line was for a while – and that line doesn’t happen without Anisimov coming to Chicago in the first Saad trade – there might not have been a better two-way line in the NHL at one point than Saad/Jonathan Toews/Marian Hossa.

Whatever nickname you choose for him, Brandon Saad earns a spot on our Blackhawks All-Decade team as the left winger on the third line. 

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Alex Nylander on healthy scratch, feedback from Jeremy Colliton and role with Blackhawks

Alex Nylander on healthy scratch, feedback from Jeremy Colliton and role with Blackhawks

Alex Nylander's first couple weeks of the 2019-20 season have been interesting. He started on the top line and scored a goal in the season opener but by the third game found himself on the outside looking in.

Nylander sat out for one game before drawing back into the lineup on Monday, where he was placed on the fourth line with Ryan Carpenter and Zack Smith. He logged a team-low 8:20 of ice time, but scored the second goal of the game that turned out to be the game-winner.

While he was disappointed about being a healthy scratch against Winnipeg on Saturday, Nylander took the positives out of observing the action from afar and taking a step back to collect himself.

"Of course you always want to be in the lineup but that could've been good for me to watch the game and learn from that game and take what I learned from that game into my game," Nylander said. "It was obviously something you don't want to do, you want to be in the lineup as much as possible and obviously stay there. I played a good game last game so I'm just going to build off that and keep doing what I've done all training camp, be confident and make my plays."

Nylander and head coach Jeremy Colliton sat down on Wednesday and watched every shift the 21-year-old took in Monday's 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. And the review was positive.

"I thought he was very good," Colliton said. "Eleven shifts, he was probably good for five, great for five and he had one tough one. He helped us win. He was a big part of our win the other night. It can be a little easier for him when he's playing less to really focus on the quality when he's out there. It may not be a bad thing for him as he grows into an everyday NHLer."

Nylander said he appreciated having that kind of line of communication with his head coach. He was drafted No. 8 overall in 2016 but hasn't been able to break through at the NHL level, so he's been open to any kind of constructive criticism.

"It's been really great," Nylander said. "Obviously I want to have a positive mindset every day here and get better. Getting feedback from my linemates as well as the coaches has been really good, just taking everything in and applying it to my game."  

The Blackhawks are trying to being patient with Nylander, but they're also trying to find a balance between giving him a long leash and holding him accountable. That goes with any young player.

"It's a combination of giving a guy enough room to make some mistakes and that's how he's going to grow but it's also accountability," Colliton said. "Sometimes you got to get a guy's attention. But he's responded great. Got no issues with his work ethic. He came out of the lineup for one game and I think he did everything right after that. Just how he approached practice, how he approached the media, being asked about it and how he approached his chance when he came back to make a difference for us."  

For now, Nylander will remain on the fourth line because the four-line rotation worked so well in their previous game. But it's clear he wants to have a large role on the team. He's just got to earn it on a consistent basis.

"Just focus on every shift I get here and obviously want to be good every shift and show that I want to be back on the top line or get more ice time," Nylander said. "But I've just got to play good here, work hard every shift and take advantage of who's out there and use my skill out there and just try to make plays and be good defensively as well."

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