Despite solid top-pairing play, Adam Boqvist still expects more from himself

Boqvist, who scored his second career goal Sunday against the Red Wings, has very solid numbers lately and has seen his playing time balloon.

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Adam Boqvist has played strong defense and started to chip in offensively in recent weeks.

Adam Boqvist has played strong defense and started to chip in offensively in recent weeks.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

Adam Boqvist’s first NHL goal, way back on Nov. 3, was for celebrating.

His second NHL goal, the third-period game-winner Sunday against the Red Wings, was not.

“I didn’t play great,” he said Monday, thinking back and hardly acknowledging the goal. “I had some turnovers on my passes in the first and third [periods], some puck decisions and some defensive-zone things. I need to talk more to [Duncan Keith].”

Playing with Keith, a Blackhawks legend, doesn’t seem to faze Boqvist even if he’s only 18 games into his NHL career. Nor does scoring big goals or handling 20-minute workloads (something he has done in three of the Hawks’ last four games).

Instead, Boqvist, 19, continues to ask more and more of himself.

“I always want to be good at both ends,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have 10 points in one game, you still have to play really good defense and help the team win.

‘‘Of course, it’s nice for your confidence to score goals, but I just have to keep working hard at both ends.”

Twelve games into his second Hawks stint of the season, Boqvist has indeed taken advantage of injuries to Calvin de Haan and Brent Seabrook to establish himself as a full-time NHL defenseman.

But he actually has gone well beyond baseline level: He has cemented himself as a viable top-pairing defenseman.

Boqvist_Keith.jpg

Boqvist and Duncan Keith, in spite of their 17-year age gap, have meshed well as the Blackhawks’ top pair.

AP Photos

The questionable defensive positioning and overly aggressive pinches the Hawks cited as reasons for Boqvist’s start-of-season AHL assignment have miraculously vanished after only a few months of development.

Boqvist clearly has been sacrificing some of his natural offensive inclinations to fix those weaknesses. But now that he has enjoyed an extended run of relatively flawless play in his own end (even if he still beats himself up about every slight miscue), the offensive game is starting to come around.

“He gets better and better,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Being very clean with the puck, he adds a different dimension to our ‘D’ group with how mobile he is. And he can escape on retrievals and make plays and helps us break out cleaner.

‘‘And obviously on the offensive blue line, he’s dynamic. So he adds a lot to our team, and he’s only going to improve.”

In these last 12 games, the team has had 51.1 percent of its shots and 52.3 percent of its scoring chances with Boqvist on the ice, among the best rates for any Hawk. Those are up from 46.7 and 48.6 percent, respectively, in six games during Boqvist’s first NHL stint.

And he’s doing this despite Colliton sheltering him less, too. Boqvist started only 4 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone during his first stint. He has started 27 percent in the defensive zone recently.

The humble Swede’s performance still has room for improvement. Much like fellow rookie Kirby Dach, he must learn to shoot more often when he gets the chance — especially on the power play, where his playing time has skyrocketed (since being moved to the first unit before the Blue Jackets game).

Like seemingly everything else, he knows that and mentioned it. And as impressive as Boqvist’s on-ice play has been, his off-ice hockey intelligence and drive for excellence have been even more noticeable.

“[As] every game goes [by], I feel like I want to have the puck more out there,” he said. “Play a little more minutes now, as well. So I’m glad they believe in me.”

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