DeBrincat’s hat trick boosts Blackhawks over Red Wings

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With the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings at risk of both missing the playoffs for the same time for the first time since 1968, it’s tough not to ruminate on the past.

The Blackhawks have to be delighted, on the other hand, to note that potential future pieces played a big role in a convincing 5-1 win on Thursday.

After collecting an empty-netter in the closing moments, Alex DeBrincat collected a hat trick, likely inspiring a lot of “DeBrinhat” jokes. Forty-nine games into his career, the 20-year-old already owns two hat tricks and now has 17 goals and 32 points (DeBrincat also had an assist tonight). That’s not Calder Trophy material in a year like this, but it’s evidence that Chicago was justified in being excited when they selected him in the second round (39th overall) back in 2016.

DeBrincat wasn’t the only young player to show promise.

Anthony Duclair‘s start in Chicago has been quite, as he’s hovering around the 13 minutes per game that drew some complaints in Arizona. After only generating an assist in his first five games with the Blackhawks, Duclair scored a goal and two assists in just 4:46 of ice time in the first period. Maybe this outburst will earn a few more reps from Coach Q?

Even with this win, the Blackhawks are in a tough spot. They’re likely going to need other wild card hopefuls to stumble while really going on a tear to make the playoffs. We’ve seen glimpses of the once-dominant team many have grown to expect, but Chicago hasn’t been able to put it together often enough to keep up with a competitive Central Division and Western Conference.

Perhaps the Blackhawks need to roll the dice by depending more upon youngsters like DeBrincat and Duclair, as Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane might not be able to carry them as much as they have in the past? A diversified attack might be what they need with Corey Crawford‘s health still in question.

Those are thoughts that linger over the Blackhawks heading into the All-Star break, but at least they didn’t carry a losing streak into it, too. Instead, they snapped that four-game skid in a big way, maybe providing some optimism for what will need to be a blistering push.

You know, assuming that those days aren’t already in the past.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.