Blackhawks Star of the Week: Hometown Hero

The Chicago Blackhawks have been very inconsistent as of late. They have been doing a lot of back-and-forth’s when it comes to the win column. One win there, two losses there. It’s hard to predict what they will do next. However, this past week, we saw some consistency. They have been on a five-game road trip which carries a record of 3-1 so far. Along with some more wins under their belts have come some highlight moments. There have been some great plays from the likes of our cousin, Vinnie Hinostroza. Here are some keys from the Blackhawks’ Star of the Week.

Background

Hinostroza was re-acquired from the Florida Panthers on April 2. The 27-year-old found himself on the outs with the Panthers and only played in nine games, registering zero points in that time span. The trade was the perfect “change of scenery” move. It wasn’t earth-shattering, but it’s a move that has been aging like fine wine. In six games with the Blackhawks, he has five points. You couldn’t ask for a better start from him.

Vinnie Hinostroza Chicago Blackhawks Andrej Sekera Dallas Stars
Vinnie Hinostroza, Chicago Blackhawks and Andrej Sekera, Dallas Stars (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

When you look back on his stats, there is reason to feel cautious. He had a breakout year with the Arizona Coyotes in 2018-19, where he had 16 goals, 23 assists, and 39 points in 72 games. He hasn’t been able to put similar numbers together since.

When he started his career with the Blackhawks from 2015-2018, he had 13 goals, 26 assists, and 39 points in 106 games. It’s not earth-shattering, but you can’t base everything on stats. When you look at the way that he plays, that “fast, frenetic, fevered” (from ‘Handling the grind, the top line’s aligned, Vinnie Hinostroza’s a find: 10 observations from a big Blackhawks win’ , The Athletic, 04/06/21) style is exactly what this team needs more of. He draws comparisons to Brandon Hagel. That’s a very good thing. Hagel is a rookie that has been noticeable every night for his fast, hustle-style type of play. It was evident early on that this team needed more of those kinds of players. You can’t teach speed, and oftentimes, the Blackhawks’ lack of speed has cost them games.

Fast Start

Hinostroza didn’t waste any time getting into the thick of things. In his first game back as a Blackhawk, on April 6 against the Dallas Stars, he made a nifty play down the ice and was able to feed Dominik Kubalik for a goal that put Chicago up 2-0 in the second period. Kubalik and Hinostroza repeated that sequence in the second game against the Stars on April 8. Those plays carried over into the second game of the Detroit Red Wings on April 17. It was a performance that earned him the ‘Star of the Week’ nod.

The game was ugly to start. The Blackhawks only had three shots on goal towards the end of the first period. The Red Wings had most of the momentum. However, he was able to make a quick play to strip Red Wings’ defenseman Troy Stetcher of the puck with a great forecheck. He then passed the puck through Stetcher’s legs, which landed perfectly on Patrick Kane’s stick for a wide-open net goal.

This play still boggles my mind. There was a split second where if Stetcher was positioned correctly, the puck would have just hit him and stopped a goal. It ended up being the perfect moment where the puck could slide through his legs like that. Nevertheless, it was a goal that was a back-breaker for Detroit, as there were less than 20 seconds left in the period. That type of play allowed Chicago to carry the momentum for the rest of the game.

He got two more assists in the third period. The second one came when Duncan Keith had a takeaway. Hinostroza and Wyatt Kalynuk were then able to race to the front of the net, and all Hinostroza had to do was pass the puck for Kalynuk to tip it in. The third assist came at the end of the third period, where he was able to win a board battle and passed the puck to Pius Suter for an empty-net goal. These fast plays have been a killer for the opposition.

Impact

Head coach Jeremy Colliton liked what we saw from Hinostroza. He promoted him from the third line to the second line with Kane and Suter against Detroit. That move was surprising because he usually is a third or fourth-line player. I’m not sure if it is something I agree with, but I see the logic. Before he was promoted, Kane was playing on the second line with Hagel. Hinostroza plays that similar game to Hagel. where he can win board battles, dig pucks out, and do the little things to retrieve pucks.

For a player like Kane, he needs someone like that on his line to give him a better chance of puck possession. It worked beautifully when Kane and Hinostroza connected for a goal.

Hinostroza is also able to sneak up on opponents with his speed. He’s able to catch them off guard in a way that he can strip them of the puck. That is helpful for the Blackhawks’ overall game. Getting the puck, getting to the front of the net, and setting up quickly has been a struggle for the Blackhawks all year. In just six games, he has been able to do all of those things. Adding that extra element of competitiveness helps to elevate the roster and helps result in more goals.

Final Thought

I’m all aboard the Hinostroza train. He seems confident, motivated, and rejuvenated, which is exciting to see. I think his role will be increased if he keeps producing at this rate. He won’t be a flashy goal-scorer, but he will provide solid secondary depth. If he keeps this up, he will be another great asset for the Blackhawks’ rebuild.

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