Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton was halfway through a detailed description of wing Alex DeBrincat’s growth Sunday when he realized something.
‘‘He can be an elite player in the league,’’ Colliton said before pausing briefly. ‘‘Maybe you could say he is already.’’
Indeed. Sunday marked the pinnacle of DeBrincat’s torrid start to the season. He scored twice — once in the second period and again in overtime — to lead the ever-improving Hawks to a 2-1 victory against the Stars in Dallas.
‘‘The way the team’s been playing lately, it just makes it easier on me, as well,’’ DeBrincat said. ‘‘We’re playing hard, everyone’s buying in to the system and it just makes it easier on everyone. We know where each other’s going to be. We’re pretty predictable, and it’s worked out well for us.’’
The Hawks have earned at least a point in nine of their last 10 games and finally ended their overtime woes after losing their first four games that went beyond regulation. In their last two games, they’ve dealt the Hurricanes and Stars — two of the NHL’s best teams — their second overall loss and first home loss, respectively.
DeBrincat has been a massive part of that. Since returning from an eight-day stay on the COVID-19 list — despite never testing positive himself — he has four goals, two assists and 17 shots on goal in three games.
After his terrific 2018-19 season (76 points in 82 games) and his snakebitten 2019-20 season (45 points in 70 games), DeBrincat looked at 2021 as a fresh start.
He said he spent much of the offseason working on his shot, which let him down last season. Yet his ability to get open in dangerous areas this season means he hasn’t needed any accurate snipes to hit the net.
DeBrincat also has improved away from the puck. Previously a poor performer in terms of advanced possession stats, his newfound defensive attentiveness means he’s one of only six Hawks with a positive on-ice scoring-chance differential.
The other five — Adam Boqvist, Brandon Hagel, David Kampf, Ryan Carpenter and Matthew Highmore — are defensemen or defensive forwards.
‘‘Last year wasn’t the best season statistically for me, but I did grow as a player,’’ DeBrincat said. ‘‘Jeremy’s taught me a lot in [the defensive] aspect of the game. Going forward, I want to be a two-way player. I want to play all situations and be a player that he can put out and trust at any time in the game.’’
Plus, scoring at the prolific rate he is doesn’t hurt. With 12 points in nine games in 2021, he’s on pace for his best season offensively, too.
‘‘When the pucks do go in for you, it gives you a confidence and a jump and an energy, and you can play a little more freely with more joy,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘That’s going to make you better. I’m happy for him.’’
DeBrincat gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead after center Dylan Strome found him wide-open on the back side of a power play.
Goalie Malcolm Subban’s only gaffe of the game enabled the Stars to tie the score in the third period, but he otherwise saved 30 shots en route to earning his first victory with the Hawks.
On an overtime rush, DeBrincat redirected a pass from Patrick Kane past Stars goalie Jake Oettinger, sending the Hawks to their ‘‘distanced’’ postgame Super Bowl party.
‘‘Everyone’s having fun out there,’’ DeBrincat said. ‘‘It’s good to be back with the guys. We’re just having a good time.’’