Snuggerud’s five-point night sends Blackhawks to championship game

The started the scoring on the first shift of the game, and then they seemingly couldn’t stop, finding twine even on the very last shift of the game.

Snuggerud’s five-point night sends Blackhawks to championship game

The two tallies bookended a 9-2 demolition of Carolina on Monday night, which also included two power-play goals and two shorthanded goals, some heroic penalty killing and an overall team performance the Blackhawks could be proud of. Eleven players found the scoresheet, and five enjoyed multi-point nights, chief among them defenseman , who strung together an even-strength goal, a power-play goal and three assists; he’s now one of four players with six points in the tournament.

“Things were just kind of going in the net for me, so it’s just one of those days where the whole team’s playing well and I’m just a product of that success,” Snuggerud said after the game. “Can’t give enough credit to the guys in the locker room. Everyone was clicking and on the same page.”

His defensive partner, 2013 seventh-round pick , collected three helpers of his own. He too gave a lot of credit to the full team effort, saying, “It’s hard to not play good because our forwards and centers are everywhere helping us out, so we can just return the puck. We were in the offensive zone — I don’t know how many minutes today, but it was really good.”

It started, as it has all tournament, with the top line clicking immediately, as 2016 second-round pick Alex DeBrincat continued his productive streak, burying a cross-crease pass from center David Kampf just 36 seconds into the game for his third goal in as many games.

Two consecutive power-play opportunities for Carolina could have spelled a quick turnaround, but Chicago not only held on admirably, they doubled their lead on Matthew Highmore’s shorthanded tally after DeBrincat interrupted a play in the neutral zone.

Adidas Blackhawks #15 Artem Anisimov Black 1917-2017 100th Anniversary Stitched NHL Jersey
Adidas Blackhawks #15 Artem Anisimov Black 1917-2017 100th Anniversary Stitched

“Pierre was Bobby Orr before Bobby Orr,” praised Glenn Hall, the Blackhawks’ goalie. Whenever Pilote heard that tribute, he always shrugged. Orr’s revolutionary style as an “offenseman” with the Boston Bruins earned him eight straight Norris Trophies, but the last individual to merit anything even approximating that was Pilote, who won the Norris in 1963, 1964 and 1965. He finished second in voting in 1962, 1966 and 1967.

“I had a terrific partner in Elmer ‘Moose’ Vasko, who minded the store while I went up ice,” Pilote said. “And we had guys like Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita, who knew what to do with authentic NHL jerseys the puck. Did they ever.”

Pierre quarterbacked the Blackhawks to Stanley Cup in 1961, scoring three goals and adding 12 assists in only 12 games as the franchise achieved its first championship since 1938. The next year, Pilote became team captain, an honor he held until 1968. During that hallmark 1960-61 winter, Pilote also led the NHL with 165 penalty minutes. Despite his medium build, Pilote had a truculent side and initiated more physicality than he accepted.

“I had a few scraps,” Pilote recalled. “One night in Montreal against the Canadiens, I got into it with Henri Richard. The next thing you know, here came his brother, Maurice, ‘The Rocket.’ That was interesting. Lucky for me, one of our guys, Harry Watson, arrived to help me out. There was more of that stuff then, and you had to establish yourself, or else.”

Despite his fiery form while playing, Pilote was a soft-spoken prince of a gentleman with a dry sense of humor. Although proudly old school, Pilote keenly observed modern hockey and followed current players. When Doug Wilson won the 1982 Norris, Pilote lavishly extolled the young Chicago star. A popular and frequent attendee at the annual Blackhawks Convention, Pilote could often be found huddling with clone Duncan Keith. It was difficult to discern who was picking whose brain.

“Talk about a guy who can move the puck,” Pilote gushed. “And he stays in shape year-round. In the summers, we did nothing.”

Like so many former Blackhawks, Pilote was grateful to be treated as family.

“Unbelievable what the organization has accomplished under Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough,” he said. “They’ve been wonderful to me.”

In 1968, Pilote was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jim Pappin. After one season there, Pilote retired and embarked on several successful business ventures. He played 890 games in the NHL — 376 of them consecutively with the Blackhawks. As a fixture in all situations, notably the power play, Pilote amassed 400 assists, still eighth on the franchise list. Keith passed him last season.

The Blackhawks came out roaring in the second period, and an early snipe by Radovan Bondra to finish off a 4-on-2 counterattack cut the deficit in half. Then, in the final minute, the Blackhawks capitalized on what Colliton described as an “excellent team shift.” Free-agent invitee Michael Cramarossa forced the puck loose along the boards, and DeBrincat lifted a Columbus defender’s stick, turned and buried a quick wrister to tie the game.

DeBrincat led all skaters at the tournament with five goals and 17 shots on goal in four games, finding the back of the net in every single outing.

“My team helped me a lot on the scoring end of things,” he said. “I think I was kind of looking to play an all-around game [here]. A few games I did that; a few I had all-right games. There’s a lot of room to improve, and I definitely have to be a lot better at training camp.”

Other Blackhawks players had outstanding performances at the tournament as well. Snuggerud’s five-point exhibition against Carolina will be hard to forget. Czech signing David Kampf, who centered DeBrincat in all four games, adapted without a hitch in his first North American competition. The undrafted Cramarossa was quietly impressive after collecting five points in just three appearances. Goaltenders Collin Delia and Matt Tomkins each had solid starts.

Rather than lean on individual performances, however, Colliton was impressed by the way the entire team came together over the course of a single week.

“It’s our first time touching these guys in a real, competitive situation, so I think we’re really pleased with how they progressed,” he said. “It’s not a lot of practice time. It says a lot about the guys we have that they were tough to play against. That’s what we’re looking for. If we’re developing guys for the NHL jersey, it’s important to have that side of your game.

“They’re good kids, good people, and they have fun,” he added. “That’s what you want. That’s part of what the Blackhawks are trying to build here — good people, good teammates — and it’s easy to win then.”