Anton Forsberg is well aware of how spoiled the Blackhawks have been at the backup-goaltender position in recent years and how that job has served as a springboard to bigger and better things.
Ray Emery earned Vezina Trophy votes in 2013 and moved on to a bigger role with the Flyers. Antti Raanta at one point led the NHL in save percentage and is now the starting goalie for the Coyotes. And Scott Darling parlayed his backup brilliance into a four-year, $16.6 million deal with the Hurricanes.
Forsberg hopes to one day follow in their footsteps.
“Yeah, of course,” Forsberg said. “Everybody wants to be a starting goalie in the NHL. I don’t know if you would play hockey otherwise. Of course, that’s one of my goals.”
Forsberg first has to win the backup job. General manager Stan Bowman anointed him Corey Crawford’s backup when he was acquired from the Blue Jackets in the Artemi Panarin–Brandon Saad trade. But the Hawks later signed J-F Berube, who has 21 NHL games to his credit (11 more than Forsberg), to a one-year deal to provide some organizational depth. So while Forsberg is a pretty safe bet, he’s not taking anything for granted.
“It’s always a competition [for] spots,” Forsberg said. “It doesn’t really matter to me. I can’t do anything other than play my game and focus on my game. I’m trying to get better every night. Everybody else in there is trying to do the same thing.”
Forsberg, 24, made an awfully good first impression in the preseason opener Tuesday in his old home of Columbus. He made 38 saves, including all 14 shots he saw in a hectic first period. It was even more impressive considering the Blue Jackets had many of their NHL-level players in the game. The Hawks’ crew was mainly composed of players bound for the minors or juniors.
“A great beginning,” Joel Quenneville said. “You always want to make good first impressions in your new surroundings. I think he showed a lot. Organizationally, it was nice to see him battle through a lot of traffic and action around his net. He fought through a busy game and did an outstanding job. It gives you confidence, as well, knowing you’re comfortable in your new surroundings.”
Vinnie Hinostroza played 49 games for the Hawks last season but seemed destined to be one of the odd men out with the additions of veterans Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma. But the 23-year-old forward has had an excellent camp and had a strong game against the Jackets, scoring a goal on a terrific wrist shot and even winning three of four faceoffs. He’s one of many players who could force Quenneville and Bowman into some difficult decisions.
“Vinnie was great,” Quenneville said, using an adjective he doesn’t throw around freely. “He had great speed, great energy. Dangerous off the rush. He had a lot of looks and turned some pucks over and made things happen. When Vinnie is contributing in a meaningful way, [he’s effective on] both sides, responsible, and with upside offensively, and quickness.”
The game was a plodding, disjointed affair, with 17 penalties called as the league continues cracking down on slashes and faceoff violations.
“We budgeted 14, seven apiece,” Quenneville said with a grin. “We went over the quota.”
At least the goalies liked it.
“It was a lot of breaks, for sure,” Forsberg said. “It was kind of nice, though. I was tired there for a while. It’s some new rules, and it takes some time for the team to get used to all the new rules. But that’s what preseason is for.”
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