Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat reaches 40-goal milestone as prolific season winds down
DeBrincat was tied for eighth in the NHL in goals after scoring the overtime winner Wednesday against the Coyotes. He also ranks among the top 15 in shots and scoring chances.
LOS ANGELES — When Blackhawks wing Alex DeBrincat erupted for 41 goals in 2018-19, his second NHL season, he assumed it would become an annual occurrence.
But a third-year slump compounded by bad luck, resulting in only 18 goals in 70 games, sent his scoring confidence careening in the other direction.
Then a global pandemic shortened his fourth season. Despite scoring 32 goals in 52 games, he didn’t have the runway to reach the 40-goal plateau.
On Wednesday, however, at the end of the 77th game of his fifth season — a 4-3 victory against the Coyotes — DeBrincat reached the 40-goal milestone again at last.
‘‘It’s awesome,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, I’ve had a lot of good players I’ve been playing with, and [I give] a lot of credit to them [for] giving me a lot of backdoor tap-ins. I don’t think you cherish it as much when it’s in your second season. Then you realize how hard it is to get back.’’
After terrorizing opposing goalies for most of the season, DeBrincat had gone seven games without a goal entering play Wednesday (though he had racked up eight assists during that span). Wing Patrick Kane’s cross-crease pass in overtime finally gave DeBrincat a can’t-miss opportunity to end the drought — on his sixth shot on goal of the night — and he converted it.
‘‘You obviously want to get to 40 as quickly as you can, but it seemed like I was a little bit snakebitten there, [although I] had a lot of chances pretty much every game,’’ DeBrincat said. ‘‘It was bound to go in sooner or later.’’
Interim coach Derek King said he thought DeBrincat’s performance dipped a bit during recent weeks, then rebounded this week.
‘‘The last few [games], he has been back working harder, getting back on pucks, being above [the puck], tracking, working to get the pucks back,’’ King said. ‘‘And [while] still doing all that, his chances have even gotten better. He has had some golden opportunities. Just sometimes you’re stuck on 19 or 29 or 39, and it’s hard to get that 40th. But I was glad to see him do it.’’
DeBrincat became the eighth player in franchise history to notch multiple 40-goal seasons, including Kane.
Entering the game Thursday against the Kings — another crucial game for their playoff hopes but another meaningless game for the Hawks, with only four remaining beyond that one on their schedule — DeBrincat was with Predators forward Matt Duchene for the eighth-most goals in the NHL.
He also ranked 14th in shots attempted (446), 14th in shots on goal (254) and ninth in scoring chances (284).