Ryan Hartman’s hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Predators

Ryan Hartman’s hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Predators

Every hockey-playing kid has probably dreamed of recording a hat trick. The dream probably features every goal scored in dramatic or stylish fashion, hats reigning down after it’s complete.

For Ryan Hartman, that first career NHL hat trick was complete thanks to two empty-net goals. OK, probably not the way he would’ve drawn it up but you better believe he’ll take it.

Hartman tallied a hat trick, which included a reviewed game-winner and two empty-net goals, as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Sunday night. It was the third victory in a row for the Blackhawks, who remain atop the Western Conference.

Artemi Panarin scored his 17th goal of the season and Niklas Hjalmarsson added his fifth, a career high for a season for the defenseman. Corey Crawford stopped 25 of 27 shots for the victory.

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But the story was Hartman, who continues to be one of the Blackhawks’ top rookies this season.

“I didn’t know he got that second one, so going out for the faceoff there at the end, I just kind of looked at him and asked if he had two goals. He said, ‘Yeah,’ so good for him,” said Patrick Kane, who had three assists, including the primary one on Hartman’s third goal. “He’s been a big player for us this year and he’s been very productive. He plays a good style of hockey that we’ve kind of been missing for a little bit. He’s physical, he draws penalties and it seems like he’s always on the puck. He’s had a great season so far.”

Hartman’s biggest goal was his first one, a net-front deflection in which the puck crossed the line as the net was coming out of its moorings. Called a goal on the ice, it was reviewed and deemed a good goal. As the NHL situation room stated:

Video review confirmed that the puck deflected off the body of Chicago's Ryan Hartman and into the net in a legal fashion, before the net was dislodged. According to Rule 78.4 "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed". Good goal Chicago.

Hartman, who scored a slick goal against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night, felt more like himself on this one.

“I think goals like tonight are a little more like me. I don’t know about the other night,” Hartman said. “It’s nice to get a couple of those where you don’t really use your stick and they kind of go off you.”

Corey Crawford said Hartman deserved that kind of ending, considering his block on Mattias’ Ekholm’s shot not long before Hartman’s first goal.

“Quick play out front and a one-timer right in the slot, [Hartman] sacrificed, went down blocking it comes back and he gets a hat trick,” Crawford said. “Everyone’s happy for him. he played awesome.”

Hartman’s first empty-net goal was a longer-distance shot that line mate Richard Panik was close to as it crossed the line. But Panik said he didn’t touch it.

“My first thought was, ‘I can’t take this from him,’” Panik said with a smile. “I was just trying to play the [defense] and it went in.”

Hartman’s hat trick probably wasn’t how he drew it up in his head but it was effective nonetheless. The Blackhawks are back on the right track following a slump around the holidays, and contributions like that are part of it.

“It’s a long season. There are going to be times when things don’t go your way and you don’t get bounces. There are games where the other team just plays well,” Crawford said. “[It’s just] sticking to it, not letting anything bother you, and keep playing the way you can.”

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, we're live at the 2017 Blackhawks Convention. 

Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp join David Kaplan and Pat Boyle to talk about returning to Chicago. 

Later Boyle, CSN Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers, Chris Kuc and Sam Panayotovich discuss the huge roster changes this offseason. 

Listen to the STL Pod below.