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updated: 1/7/2018 6:43 PM

A little 'puck luck' helps Blackhawks beat Oilers

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  • Chicago Blackhawks right wing Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Chicago.

    Chicago Blackhawks right wing Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Chicago.
    Associated Press

 
 

It was a play so pretty, so impressive, so eye-opening, you had watch it over and over to make sure you saw it right.

Did Nick Schmaltz actually pass the puck through Ryan Hartman's legs to himself and backhand a shot past Cam Talbot to open the scoring in the Blackhawks' 4-1 victory over Edmonton on Sunday?

Sure enough, that's exactly what happened -- even if that wasn't the plan.

Less than a minute-and-a-half later, Alex DeBrincat tried centering a pass to Patrick Sharp, only to watch it bounce off Mark Letestu's skate and past Talbot.

Did that really happen too? Sure enough -- it did.

There's no doubt that the Hawks -- who officially hit the halfway point of the season with a 20-15-6 record -- could use a little puck luck these days as they try to claw out of the Central Division cellar and back into a wild-card spot.

"We have some work to do," said coach Joel Quenneville. "Obviously you're going to have to have a good, strong second half to get in. Everybody's in the mix and it's pretty amazing at this stage."

The Hawks, who also got goals from Brandon Saad and Jordan Oesterle, turned in one of their better efforts against Edmonton.

"We wanted to come out with a strong effort and dictate the pace in our building," Schmaltz said.

They did just that, but putting too much on this one victory is obviously dangerous, considering:

• The Oilers are 1-5-1 in their last seven and have been out scored 20-3 in their last five.

• Talbot has allowed a whopping 27 goals in his last seven starts.

• The inconsistent Hawks seem to follow up a good performance or two with another stinker.

"The area where we've been ordinary all year is predictability from start to finish in a game," Quenneville said. "If we manage the puck better, it really enhances our game."

Amazingly, it's mostly the young players who stood out in the first half.

• Schmaltz now has 12 points in his last 12 games. He's proven he can play center or wing and his confidence seems to be growing every game.

• DeBrincat has 14 goals -- second on the team behind Patrick Kane's 17 -- and Quenneville knows he can play the rookie anywhere on the top three lines.

• Gustav Forsling and Jan Rutta have been inconsistent, but they were back together for the first time in a while Sunday and looked solid.

• Oesterle has come out of nowhere to score 3 goals in the last five games.

• Vinnie Hinostroza has looked more than solid on the top line.

• And Ryan Hartman is back to playing a smart, edgy game after going through a rough spell.

What the Hawks really need is for Saad and Jonathan Toews to keep their momentum going and for Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Richard Panik and Patrick Sharp to pick up their games.

Oh, and for Corey Crawford to get healthy.

If all that happens, there should be many more games like Sunday.

"Every game's so huge," Schmaltz said. "Everyone in our division seems to be winning every night. We can't take any games off. …

"We got a big win tonight and we've got to keep rolling on these home games we have coming up."

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