Blackhawks' Schmaltz coming into his own

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz, center, is congratulated by Jonathan Toews, left, after his goal off Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in St. Paul, Minn. The Blackhawks won 5-3. Toews scored three goals in the game.

    Chicago Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz, center, is congratulated by Jonathan Toews, left, after his goal off Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk during the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in St. Paul, Minn. The Blackhawks won 5-3. Toews scored three goals in the game.

 
 
Updated 2/25/2017 6:54 PM

Nick Schmaltz is not a wimpy golfer.

Given the chance to pull of the "hero shot," the Blackhawks rookie will go for it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Every time.

Such was the situation in November when Schmaltz faced a 255-yard shot to the green on a par-5 while playing with Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Ryan Hartman at a course in California during the team's annual circus trip.

"I bring out my 3 wood and was just kind of messing around," Schmaltz said. "I'm like, 'There's no way this gets there, but I'll go for it.' It started out to the left, but sure enough, it takes a huge hop, rolls right up there and probably about three feet away."

Three feet from the rarest of all golf shots -- the double eagle.

"That would have been unbelievable, but I made the eagle putt, so that was good," Schmaltz said. "I was hoping they'd give it to me. But I guess you can't give somebody an eagle putt."

This "go for it" mentality is something Schmaltz has been trying to work into his game on the ice for just about as long as he can remember. Early in the season, the 21-year-old winger struggled so much in this area that the Hawks finally decided to send him to Rockford on Dec. 4. IceHogs coach Ted Dent implored Schmaltz to use his talent and not be afraid to pull the trigger.

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"I've been telling myself that for years now -- shoot the puck -- and I still don't do it," Schmaltz said. "(Dent) kind of said, 'You know what you are. You like to have the puck, and don't be afraid to make plays. You're going to make mistakes, but you can't let that crush your confidence. You've just got to know that the next time you get out there, you're going to make that play.'"

Schmaltz scored six times in 12 games with the IceHogs, then returned to the Blackhawks with a newfound confidence. In the three weeks since Schmaltz was moved to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik, he has scored 3 goals and dished out 6 assists.

His last 2 tallies have been particularly impressive.

The first came early in the third period in Minnesota on Tuesday when Schmaltz jumped on a puck after a Toews faceoff win and ripped it past the clueless Devan Dubnyk.

The second came 37 seconds into the Hawks' 6-3 win over Arizona on Thursday when Schmaltz blasted a one-timer into the net to open up the scoring. The birthday boy -- he turned 21 that day -- showed some rare emotion and leapt into the glass behind the net to celebrate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A smiling Hartman said: "He (usually) acts like he's done it before. Kind of calm. Acts like a big shot sometimes." He and Vinnie Hinostroza took Schmaltz out to celebrate after the game.

Not only is Schmaltz shooting more -- he's averaging 1.44 shots on goal since his return from Rockford as opposed to 0.6 when he was sent down -- but he's also improved his awareness, puck control and shiftiness in the offensive zone.

"You don't have to go out there and think; you just kind of play your game," Schmaltz said. "When things are going well, you've just got to keep playing the same way. Try not to change anything."

Said GM Stan Bowman: "He knows he can play now. He's not just trying to get by. He's trying to make a difference."

And primarily because he's learned that -- just like on the golf course -- it's OK to go for the hero shot.

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