Blackhawks’ Ryan Carpenter growing into more offensive role, including on power play

Since returning from his relatively active COVID-19 quarantine, Carpenter has enjoyed arguably his best stretch of hockey since joining the Hawks.

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Blackhawks forward Ryan Carpenter scored twice this weekend against the Red Wings.


During the two weeks in February he had COVID-19, Blackhawks forward Ryan Carpenter found a silver lining to his sensory loss.

He couldn’t ‘‘smell my boy’s poopy diapers.’’

But Carpenter’s sons — 1-year-old Brock and 3-year-old Beau — still kept him busy, preventing him from resting for 14 days without much exercise, as NHL doctors recommend.

‘‘I don’t know if I was supposed to, but I [rode] a stationary bike on my own,’’ Carpenter said. ‘‘Maybe it’s [because of] the kids, too. . . . I wasn’t able to sit around on the couch all day. I know we weren’t really able to leave our apartment until our quarantine was up, but I was still pretty active throughout the day.’’

Fast-forward a few weeks, and Carpenter’s relatively exercise-laden quarantine has transitioned into one of his best stretches of hockey since signing with the Hawks in 2019.

Carpenter, 30, returned to the Hawks’ lineup Feb. 17, just four days after he was activated from the COVID-19 list — much faster than defenseman Adam Boqvist or forward Lucas Wallmark did.

In the six games since, Carpenter — typically a defense-first fourth-liner — has grown into a more offensive role, including on the Hawks’ first power-play unit.

That paid off Sunday, when Carpenter notched the first two-goal outing of his 216-game NHL career against the Red Wings. After scoring only three times in 69 games last season, Carpenter has three goals in 15 games this season.

‘‘I probably tied my goals from last year already, but it’s not saying much,’’ Carpenter said Sunday. ‘‘But I came into this season having a simpler mindset. It helped me on the power play tonight.

‘‘Goals aren’t always pretty. You just found a way to get it, like that [first] goal that went off somebody and in. So I’m working hard, simplifying my game, not being too cute and just being around the net. That’s where a lot of the goals are scored.’’


Carpenter has already matched his 2019-20 goal-scoring output this season.

AP Photos

Carpenter is attempting more shots this season than last (11.8 per 60 minutes, up from 7.9 last season), being more accurate with those attempts (67% are on goal, up from 63%) and forcing goalies to spit out rebounds three times more often.

He also has produced 9.0 scoring chances per 60 minutes, up from 5.4 last season. And he hasn’t sacrificed his defense. He still ranks among the top three on the Hawks in both main possession proxy stats.

His new power-play role is an even stranger experience, given that he had played only 40 minutes on the power play in his career before 2021.

But Carpenter texted with forward Andrew Shaw, who had been effective in the same rover spot in the Hawks’ 1-3-1 formation before his concussion, to get some pointers.

‘‘I know my role here up to this point has just been more of a depth guy, a good penalty-killer,’’ Carpenter said. ‘‘But whatever the coaches ask me, I’m not going to say, ‘No, I don’t want to go out there.’ I’d love to be on the power play.’’

Coach Jeremy Colliton has been pleased so far.

‘‘He’s there to get pucks back and support and be the right-handed option in the middle, and he’s been doing that,’’ Colliton said Sunday. ‘‘We broke pressure well tonight, we got the puck back and it was a good finish [by Carpenter].’’

Carpenter is likely a short-term power-play option until the Hawks figure out something better. His five-on-five play is not about to make him a scoring champion, either. Despite his three goals, he still is seeking his first assist.

For now, however, Carpenter’s offensive evolution has been substantial and impressive.

And he can thank his tireless toddlers for that.

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