DENVER – Ryan Hartman had a list of things he wanted to accomplish with the Blackhawks this season.
"I had a segment of goals: make the team, stay on the team and produce," Hartman said on Tuesday night. "Those three segments, as the year went on I knocked one [by one] off."
When it came to goals, however, Hartman didn't set a distinct goal. There wasn't a specific number. But as the regular season comes to a close the rookie is closing in on a 20-goal season. In the plans or not, it would be a pretty nice number on which to finish.
Hartman scored his 19th goal of the season in the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night. It's been a great season for Hartman whose 19 goals are sixth among NHL rookies this season (he's 16th among rookies in points with 31).
If Hartman does hit 20 goals, he'll be the seventh Blackhawks player to score 20 or more this season. Hartman's been part of a more balanced Blackhawks team this season, one that hasn't had to lean on the second line like it did last season.
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"Especially postseason, it's huge," Hartman said of the Blackhawks' balanced scoring. "We can have, up and down the lineup, guys scoring goals. In close games, that can help. It can put you far into the playoffs."
Hartman moved around the lineup some this season but recently he's formed a good line with Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger. The trio has the defensive responsibility (with a little scoring to boot) that coach Joel Quenneville likes.
"He's done some good for us," Quenneville said of Hartman. "He gives us a little bite, being an edgy player, knowing the fine line you have to walk and how the referees are going to watching you or calling you every game. That's something that he's growing into. There's still some room to improve in that area."
Hartman walked that fine line pretty well for most of this season until late March, when his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty proved costly in a lopsided 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers. Hartman was benched for the Blackhawks' next game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. But with everything else Hartman learned from that and has since been more disciplined (one minor in the last four games).
His season has been a learning experience, as most rookie campaigns are. But Hartman there's been more good than bad. He's on the cusp of a 20-goal season. That number may not have been part of his goals at the start of the season but it would be a nice mark to hit nonetheless.
"The consistency of his game, being around the net, wanting the puck, coming up with loose pucks is something he's gotten better at, and he still has room for improvement. But he still has upside to his game," Quenneville said. "He's had a real nice year. But don't be satisfied."