NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Chicago will take any positives it can get in 2021.
Pius Suter appears to be one of them. In his sixth NHL game, the rookie netted a hat trick for his first three career goals, the first Blackhawks player to achieve that feat in 90 years.
It’s no doubt things look bleak for the team this season; Jonathan Toews is still out with an illness and they’ve made a public commitment to rebuilding. Entering Wednesday, they’re 2-3-2 with six points, tied for second place in the messy Central Division.
“Great to see him break through offensively,” coach Jeremy Colliton said about Suter on Sunday. “I love that he was willing to shoot on that two-on-one; a lot of guys are just looking to give it to (Patrick Kane). And it was a really good sign that he continues to be a guy to want to make a play himself.”
Suter was the 10th NHL player in the past 30 years to score his first three career goals in a single game; the last to do so was Montreal’s Ryan Poehling in 2019, and Auston Matthews scoring four goals in one contest.
Fun stat oddities aside, Chicago needs as many things to look forward to as possible in a year its not expected to go terribly deep into the postseason. The Central has a plethora of issues getting games in with COVID-19 protocol dilemmas in Carolina and Dallas to start the season; that will effect all the schedules in the division.
Anything fun they can take away from this season they surely will, and perhaps Suter can be a part of that.
“I was happy to get the first one, finally, it made it easier,” Suter said to reporters after Sunday’s game. “After the second one, I felt like, ‘Yeah, you need to get the third.’ I had a few chances, and finally it worked out.”
All three of his goals on Sunday came in different fashions. His first came from being posted up in front of the net, the second with teamwork from Mattias Janmark, and the third on a 2-on-1 with a wrist shot by Jonathan Bernier.
Those tallies after he dazzled on a would-have-been assist on a goal from Patrick Kane that was disallowed, too. The 5-foot-9 forward from Switzerland is known for being opportunistic, but not necessarily his net front play.
Shot maps are set
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) January 25, 2021
One wouldn’t have known that if they just watched his sixth NHL contest, where his positioning especially in front helped aid him to his hat trick.
He was the MVP in Switzerland a year ago with 30 goals and 53 points in 50 games for the ZSC Lions. The year prior, now-Chicago second-year player Dominik Kubalik took home the same honor.
If Suter finds a place in the lineup in similar fashion, they’ll be thrilled.
“He’s a very smart player, he’s really good around the net, but his skating has allowed him to drive play and get through the neutral zone, get out of D-zone,” said Colliton. “Obviously, he’s playing with a couple pretty good players, but he can help them get out of D-zone and get attacking off the rush and in the offensive zone. It can really help us. It was a very strong game for him.”
One game is just that; one game. This is a difficult years for rookies to adjust to the NHL and, well, everything else. Especially for a team that’s focused on its future, though, there’s opportunities to be had, and it seems Suter is making the most of it.
Everyone in Chicago should be excited to get behind that.
“I had some chances and at the end and it worked out. It was a great feeling,” said Suter. “It was fun. Gave me some confidence too. It’s a good start (to) something. Keep going.”