ST. LOUIS – Sometimes, it’s about what you don’t do.
For Ryan Hartman, that held true on Thursday night. The big hit on New York Islanders forward Casey Cizikas was welcomed. So was the retaliation he didn’t offer up when Cizikas went after Hartman for that hit. One Cizikas roughing penalty and a power-play goal later, the Blackhawks, especially coach Joel Quenneville, were appreciating the restraint and the momentum swing.
“When he didn’t retaliate it gave us a chance to get on the power play, we ended up scoring and it’s almost like guys got back to the bench and were celebrating with [Hartman] instead of the guys on the ice,” Patrick Kane said. “We knew what he did there and he did a great job. Q’s right on point when he said it changed the momentum of the game.”
The biggest plus of Hartman’s game this season has been his ability to stay on the right side of that line. His ability to stay away from post-hit or post-whistle fracases has been a big help. Opposing players have tried to engage him; Hartman hasn’t reciprocated. He’s also avoiding needless and multiple penalties – he has just four penalty minutes so far this season. That’s impressive, considering Hartman had 129 penalty minutes with the Rockford IceHogs last season and 120 with them in 2014-15.
But it’s another reminder of how what may be fine in the AHL probably may not fly in the NHL.
“Different league, different situations,” said Hartman. “Out in Rockford I learned a lot from Teddy [IceHogs coach Ted Dent], knowing if you’re going to come up here and take penalties you’re not going to last long. That mindset has a lot to do with it, and a desperation to want to be here and stay here.”
Hartman has brought some skill with that sandpaper – please see his pass to Marian Hossa for the Blackhawks’ third-goal on Thursday night. But the physical player is who the Blackhawks needed more this season. Again, it’s about being smart. When Hartman talked on Friday about Thursday’s game, he knew full well the Blackhawks’ situation at the time: out of sorts and already trailing 2-0, “we needed a goal soon, so a power play would be more beneficial than a fight,” he said.
It’s something Hartman tries to be cognizant of all the time.
“I think it’s a mindset. It’s trying to keep your team ahead and stay on the ice to be a difference maker,” Hartman said. “And you can’t do that in the penalty box.”
Sure, the Blackhawks needed to score on that penalty Hartman drew, otherwise it may have been a moot point. But they did, they got their game going and eventually won. Hartman was big in helping swing momentum the Blackhawks’ way on Thursday night. His ability to recognize when the Blackhawks need energy, and avoiding retaliatory penalties, has served him well.
“He’s probably one of the team leaders in drawing the penalties and that’s huge. And when he does that we try to motivate him and cheer him on to get him excited about the job he’s doing because we need that,” Kane said. “It’s important to have a guy like that on the team who can bring a physical element, who can give the other team something to think about and distract the other team off our top guys. He made a hell of a pass on that third goal, too. He has the skills to go along with it, so it’s a great fit.”