Chicago Blackhawks

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WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals

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Hartman – Toews – Hayden

Saad – Anisimov – Kane

Bouma – Schmaltz – DeBrincat

Sharp – Wingels – Panik

Keith – Franson

Murphy – Seabrook

Forsling – Rutta

Staring goalie: Anton Forsberg

NHL on NBCSN: ‘Hawks try to snap four-game losing skid against Capitals


Ovechkin – Backstrom – Wilson

Vrana – Kuznetsov – Chiasson

Connolly – Eller – Boyd

Stephenson – Beagle – Smith-Pelly

Orlov – Niskanen

Orpik – Carlson

Djoos – Bowey

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

Alex DeBrincat is defying your expectations

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No one expected this from Alex DeBrincat.

He was passed over 38 times by 25 teams in the 2016 NHL Draft.

He was undersized, his linemates were the reason for his successes in junior hockey and he wasn’t very good at the World Juniors.

The excuses for his pending failure were already laid out for him. He just had to walk the path.

Instead, DeBrincat went in a different direction, one where the questions about his stature and teammates have shifted to a singular query: ‘How good can DeBrincat become?’

Chicago Blackhawks fans have the luxury of salivating over the thought of DeBrincat’s ceiling.

The 19-year-old has been all the rage in Chi-Town and across the NHL after he notched his first career hat trick on Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks, an outing that catapulted him (if he wasn’t already there) into the same conversation as fellow rookies Clayton Keller in Arizona, Matthew Barzal in New York (Islanders) and Brock Boeser in Vancouver.

With 10 goals and 18 points in 24 games, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman may just have the steal of the 2016 draft in DeBrincat. The Michigan native is on pace for over 30 goals, which would easily have his name in the conversation for the Calder Trophy — if not engraved on it — if he can keep it up.

As mentioned above, DeBrincat’s size may have been the main reason he slid to the Blackhawks in the second round.

He’s listed at a diminutive 5-foot-7 (two inches shorter than Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames) and weighs in at only 165 pounds, numbers that don’t add up to elite talent in the eyes of many.

He’s certainly no heavyweight, but he has the ability (like Gaudreau) to use his small size as an advantage when it comes to being elusive and hard to contain.

It would have been foolish, too, to overlook what he was able to achieve offensively at the junior level. It should come as no surprise to anyone that DeBrincat can score. A lot.

DeBrincat was an elite-level goal scorer and point producer with the Erie Otters in the Ontario Hockey League, and while junior success doesn’t always equate to the same in the NHL (just ask Eric Fehr), it doesn’t hurt either.

Here’s the breakdown of DeBrincat’s three-year junior career:

  • 191 games played
  • 167 goals
  • 165 assists
  • 332 points

Compare that to Connor McDavid’s three-year junior career with the Erie Otters:

  • 166 games played
  • 97 goals
  • 188 assists
  • 285 points

DeBrincat is, of course, not McDavid. But those are some bloody impressive numbers, regardless.

But there’s an argument that he always played with great players. From teammates in McDavid to Dylan Strome in Erie to Auston Matthews with Team USA, DeBrincat has been blessed with some exceptional talent as linemates.

But they’re not pulling the trigger for him. That knack for putting pucks in the back of the net is DeBrincat’s best trait.

And he makes it look pretty effortless.

Now, DeBrincat has the advantage of not being the guy who has to be leaned upon heavily in Chicago. He doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting yet, and that will aid in his development.

“He does all the things that scorers do,” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “How good he’s going to be, it’ll be fun to watch that play out because he has the makings of being a special player.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Saad leads Blackhawks’ first-period barrage

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Brandon Saad isn’t feeling so sad anymore.

The Chicago Blackhawks forward had just one goal in 15 games entering Saturday night’s action, part of an unfortunate group of Blackhawks who have scored very little lately.

Some quick math boils down to roughly $26 million being made across those seven contracts this season. That’s a combined 116 games, including tonight’s contest, and a grand total of six goals, also including tonight, from one-third of the Blackhawks gameday roster.

Saad appeared to be a man on a mission in the first period. He had four shots on goal in his first two shifts and scored late in the period on his sixth shot. Just for some lucky good measure, Saad finished the period with seven shots. The Blackhawks finished with 17 shots on goal and 30 shot attempts.

Someone wanted the monkey off their back in a bad, bad way. And those seven shots in one period are the most since 2008, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

If Saad continues this pace, he’d smash the team record for most shots on goal in a game.

Meanwhile, Sharp, looking to end a 15-game goal-less drought, was having no such luck around the Panthers net in the first period.

Not the sharpest pole vault attempt ever conceived.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL on NBCSN: Lightning look to keep rolling against Blackhawks


NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Wednesday night, as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Chicago Blackhawks at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game by clicking here

After missing the playoffs last season, the Lightning couldn’t have envisioned getting off to a better start this season. Through 20 games, only the St. Louis Blues (33 points in 22 games) have picked up more points than the Bolts (32 points in 20 games). As you can see from the numbers, Tampa has games in hand on St. Louis and they only trail by one point.

The Lightning are coming off a 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Saturday, but that was their first regulation defeat since Oct. 28 in Anaheim.

There’s many reasons why they’ve been so good this season, but look no further than the line of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov. That trio has been lights out so far this season, as they’ve combined to score 88 points in 20 games.

Add the stellar play of blue liners Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Anton Stralman, as well as Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s dominance between the pipes, and it’s easy to see why they’re playing so well.

After tonight’s game, the Lightning will hit the road to close out the month. They’ll travel to Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Boston over the next week.

Since falling apart in a 7-5 loss to the Devils on Nov. 12, the Blackhawks have won each of their last two games (6-3 over the Rangers, 2-1 against Pittsburgh).

If the playoffs started today, the ‘Hawks wouldn’t be in, but the playoffs don’t start today, so there’s plenty of time for them to figure out what’s gone wrong.

Tonight, they’ll have their hands full with the potent Tampa Bay attack, and they have to play a sound game if they want to come out on top.

“You have to know who’s out there, who can make plays,” goalie Corey Crawford said of the Lightning, per the Chicago Tribune. “Who is more of a drive-to-the-net, gritty player. You have to be patient. Their D-men are in the rush as lot. They’re going to have guys coming through the middle.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers look to push win streak to seven games against ‘Hawks

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Wednesday night, as the Chicago Blackhawks host the New York Rangers at 8:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here

Things have been going (really, really) well for the Rangers of late. They’ll head into tonight’s game against the Blackhawks having won each of their last six games. During the streak, they’ve taken down the Golden Knights, Lightning, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Bruins and Oilers.

Veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who struggled out of the gate, has been between the pipes for each of the six victories.

“We’ve had a great run here, but because of our start we’re not in a great position,” Lundqvist said, per the New York Post. “So it’s important that we understand the importance of the next six games and the games after that. I’m happy that we put this streak together because we were putting ourselves in the race, but we’re still not in a great spot.

“But we are doing a lot of good things and that brings a lot of confidence to the group.When you have that, it’s easier to make good decisions under pressure and make better reads. Guys are coming up with big plays at the right time.”

On the other side, things haven’t been going as well for the ‘Hawks, who have dropped three of their last four games, including an ugly 7-5 loss to the New Jersey Devils (Chicago had a 4-1 lead in that one).

Scoring has been an issue for for them this season. They’ve scored 53 goals so far (ranked 16th in the league), but 10 of those came in the first game of the year against Pittsburgh and five came in the second game against Columbus. From the third game of the season until  this point, they’ve only found the back of the net 38 times in 16 games.

“We’ve never been in this spot,’’ head coach Joel Quenneville said, per the Chicago Tribune. “Finding that consistency and putting ourselves at the top of the division has always been there. Now that we’re not there, how we’re handling it is a good test for us.’’

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.