Blackhawks

Ryan Hartman closing in on 20-goal season

Ryan Hartman closing in on 20-goal season

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."

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

"Every game now is a playoff game, pretty much. We've got to approach it like it's life or death."

Those were the words of Drake Caggiula and that was the mindset for the Blackhawks going into their five-game road trip in Western Canada, which was easily their most important swing of the season to date, given the circumstances. All five teams were ahead of them in the Western Conference standings, the Blackhawks were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and they had a chance to prove themselves ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

The Blackhawks finished the trip with a 1-4-0 record, picking up only two out of a possible 10 points. They ended the weekend sitting six points out of the final wild card spot with two games in hand but four teams to jump. It's not impossible to get back in the race, but the cards are certainly stacked against them.

So what did we learn about this team?

The easy narrative would be to say the Blackhawks shrunk in games that had playoff-type implications, but that‘s just not true. They simply failed to capitalize on their opportunities, and they had plenty of them.

In Game 1 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks held a 2-0 lead before allowing a shorthanded goal in the second period that was the first of five unanswered for the Jets, who went on to win 5-2. The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play and were outscored (1-0), outshot (3-2) and out-chanced (4-2) during those three opportunities. That was their downfall.

In Game 2 against Edmonton, the Blackhawks held a pair of one-goal leads — 2-1 in the first period and 3-2 in the second period — but couldn’t close the deal despite the Oilers playing without the NHL's best player in Connor McDavid. Again, a huge missed opportunity that was there for the taking.

In Game 3 against Vancouver, the Blackhawks peppered a season-high 49 shots on goal on Jacob Markstrom, 25 of which came from high-danger areas, but couldn't crack the code. It was one of their most dominating performances of the season from start to finish and yet they weren't rewarded for it.

In Game 4 against Calgary, the market quickly corrected itself when the Blackhawks scored a season-high eight goals on 28 shots in an 8-4 win over the Flames. It’s the exact response they were looking for, with all four lines contributing on the scoresheet.

In Game 5 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks scored the first goal, then fell behind 2-1 before evening things up at 2-2 in the final minute of the second period. The game was up for grabs. But the Jets scored 1:36 into the third period after a shot from the point deflected off Alex DeBrincat’s stick and in, and it turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Look, there are no moral victories at this time of year. An ugly win beats the heck out of a pretty loss.

If the power play doesn't go 0-for-14, we might be having a different discussion because it had a chance to change the complexion of each game except the last one — because, well, there were no penalties called on either side, which was the first time that's happened in an NHL game this season.

But the Blackhawks have no margin for error and they're learning that the hard way.

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3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

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USA TODAY

3 Takeaways: Blackhawks have hole to climb out of after road trip

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, but the Blackhawks lost 3-2 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to close out their five-game road trip. Here are three takeaways:

Bad trip

After losing in Winnipeg, the Blackhawks finished their five-game road trip with a 1-4-0 record. They began the trip last Sunday in Winnipeg with a 5-2 loss. 

Sunday's game against the Jets had flashes of good, but it was mostly strong plays from the go-to guys like Kane and Jonathan Toews. All three Jets' goals came from deflections off shots from the point. Overall, the effort and productivity paled in comparison to the lone victory of the trip, Saturday's 8-4 win over the Flames in Calgary on Saturday. 

The Blackhawks, six points out of the second wild card spot, will return home and face the New York Rangers at the United Center on Wednesday. They have 23 regular season games remaining. 

Kane keeps climbing 

With a two-point outing in Winnipeg, Kane tied former Blackhawk Steve Larmer for 87th on the NHL all-time points list with 1,012. 

"Showtime" set up Ryan Carpenter for the first goal of the game at 15:44 of the first period by backhanding a pass towards the front of the net for the crashing Carpenter to bury.

Kane scored with less than a minute remaining in the second period to tie it 2-2 off a three-way passing play with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. Kane has 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in his past 18 games. 

With the primary assist on Kane's goal, Toews earned his sixth point (two goals, four assists) of the road trip. 

0.0

Sunday's Blackhawks-Jets game was the only NHL contest this season to have zero penalties. This was good news for Toews, who had five minor penalties over the prior four games. 

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