Vincent Hinostroza more comfortable with pro game


Vincent Hinostroza more comfortable with pro game

When he made his NHL debut with his hometown Blackhawks in October, Vincent Hinostroza was understandably thrilled, excited, all of those hepped up emotions that come with the experience.

He was also very new to the pro game and everything it entailed. Now back for another stint, Hinostroza feels a little wiser in his approach.

Hinostroza was recalled on Sunday and played on the fourth line in the Blackhawks’ 7-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. It was tough to make a true assessment of Hinostroza’s outing; he logged 10 minutes, 37 seconds of ice time in a game that was loaded with special teams play. But coach Joel Quenneville liked what he did see from the Bartlett native, whose line – Brandon Mashinter – got the Blackhawks’ first goal of the night.

“I thought he made a good play on the wall, kept his feet moving, got the puck out, got a fortunate break with the play and the goal,” Quenneville said. “That line gets production off the bat. That’s certainly what we were looking for: energy.”

Hinostroza was bringing plenty of that with the Rockford IceHogs. He was also bringing production. In 41 games, Hinostroza had a team-leading 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists).

But the truly valuable thing Hinostroza’s gotten in Rockford this season is pro hockey experience. After wrapping up his second year at Notre Dame last year Hinostroza played five games with the IceHogs. This season, however, he’s gotten a real taste of the next level.

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“I played a lot more pro games and got to know the game a lot better,” Hinostroza said. “I think this time I’m for sure a lot more prepared than last time.”

Hinostroza’s not the only one learning. One of his line mates in Rockford is Tanner Kero, another college player experiencing his first pro hockey season. Kero played 17 games with the Blackhawks earlier this season; in Rockford, Hinostroza said he and Kero have been finding their game.

“I think once we got to know the pro game, me and Kero, we started playing give and go more, picking our spots, chipping and chasing, stuff like that,” Hinostroza said. “Obviously, whoever we played with is playing great. It was just clicking down there.”

How long Hinostroza stays here is unknown. It’s all about seizing the opportunity, but Hinostroza feels better about doing that now with the added experience.

“I worked with [coach Ted Dent]… he’s helped me a lot and I think I’m all set with the pro game,” he said. “I understand it now and I’ve really bought into it.”

How Blackhawks are staying positive and adapting to Jeremy Colliton’s system


How Blackhawks are staying positive and adapting to Jeremy Colliton’s system

It's been a challenging week for Jeremy Colliton. He's winless in his first three games (0-2-1) as an NHL head coach, but has taken over behind the bench for a Blackhawks team that hasn't won since Oct. 25.

There hasn't been a winning feeling in the locker room in almost three weeks, which has certainly been difficult for a rookie coach as he tries to reestablish a winning culture while implementing details of his system on the fly. But they're seeing some progress.

"I had a really good feeling after the game," Colliton said on Tuesday regarding the 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. "I thought we played pretty well. Of course, disappointed we didn't get rewarded. This team needs some positive reinforcement with points. We can tell them, 'Hey, we're getting better guys,' and showing them the positive progression, but in the end, it's about results and we want to get them. That's going to be the final reminder that we're on the right track.

"When you're in a losing streak, it's hard to get out of it. You need to play really, really well. You need a couple breaks, but you often don't get them. You've got to make your own breaks. And we're close. Once we break through, that tide will turn and we can go on a run."

It's easy to squeeze the sticks a little harder when a losing streak is nearing the double digits, but the Blackhawks haven't shown any signs of that. There isn't any boiling frustration because they know they're close and can give more.

"I know we've got a couple losses, but just trying to get better every day," Brandon Saad said. "He's our new coach. We want to commit to his system and buy into his play. Once we get that going, we're going to have some success. Early on we had a few losses, but it's about keeping that confidence and staying positive. We've got good things going forward.

"It's fun coming to the rink learning every day, talking with him. He's got his knacks and every coach wants you to play a certain way and play within a certain system. For us it's just getting familiarized with that and buying into the system. It's always more fun winning. I think everyone has that hunger and compete level every day, trying to get back on the winning side of things."

A week into Colliton's tenure in Chicago, the Blackhawks are getting more and more comfortable with how he wants them to play the more reps they get. But it's still an adjustment.

"There's definitely some differences and some things we're trying to change and you're trying to do it on the fly," Patrick Kane said. "It's not the easiest thing when you're doing it in the NHL, but we played pretty well [on Monday] and probably could've had a better result, could've had some more goals, had some chances that we didn't really capitalize on. Hopefully it's all coming together here.

"I know we're in a little bit of a skid, but it's one of those things where we want to end it, we want to get some momentum on our side and then I think everyone will start feeling comfortable with where we're at. But he's implemented some things that I think are really going to help us."

It's difficult to make up ground in the Central Division and Western Conference as a whole, but there's still more than 75 percent of the season to go. That doesn't mean they can afford to take their time in snapping out of this eight-game losing streak (0-6-2), but there is time to get it right and go on a run to climb back into the playoff race.

They're not focused on the bigger picture right now though. It starts with winning one game, and as long as the Blackhawks continue to have the right mindset, it will get turned around sooner than later.

"We've got to keep the belief," Colliton said. "In my view, the only thing that gets in the way from us turning the ship around and having a lot of success is if there's doubt in what we're doing, if guys stop believing we're on the right track. So that's our job of the staff and leadership group to make sure we continue to believe we're on the right path. All we've got to do is show them the clips, show them the video. It's pretty clear. We will get it going here."

What Jeremy Colliton has learned about the Blackhawks after one week


What Jeremy Colliton has learned about the Blackhawks after one week

It’s been a week since Jeremy Colliton took over as head coach of the Blackhawks. In some ways, it feels longer than that. In reality, he's just getting started.

Coming into a situation where the team had lost five straight games didn't help make the transition easy for Colliton, and dropping his first three contests as an NHL coach hasn't been ideal, either.

But he's been around long enough to get a feel for what he has in the locker room and how his players are responding to the adversity. 

Asked what he's learned from this group so far, Colliton didn't hesitate.

"I've learned that they want to win," he said. "They're extremely open to feedback. They want to get better. They want the video. They want the meetings. They want to talk. They want these ideas. They want to know how we can win. What's the plan? And it's right on down the line. The youngest guys I knew that because I had them in Rockford. But the oldest guys, they're almost the most excited about talking hockey and how we're going to turn this around. So that's been a pleasant surprise and makes me very excited about the future."

There are nine players on this Blackhawks roster with at least two Stanley Cups on their resume. Yet, none of them are satisfied with where they're at right now, which isn't surprising to anybody in Chicago. That’s why they’re winners.

The Blackhawks want to turn this losing skid around as quickly as possible and it's the veterans who are leading the charge in that respect, both on the ice and in the film room. That's the kind of leadership they have and need to have in the locker room, especially as a 33-year-old rookie NHL coach looks to gain respect of the group on the fly.