Blackhawks’ Ryan Hartman eager to get back to his gritty, gutty game

Ryan Hartman didn’t celebrate when he was on pace for 82 goals and an NHL-record 410 points after a five-point game in the Blackhawks’ season opener.

“Nope,” the second-year forward said. “I was happy for that game, but as soon as that game was over, I was ready for the next one. It’s not anything I thought about too much.”

And just the same, Hartman isn’t fretting about being a healthy scratch 17 games later, sitting out the 7-5 loss Sunday to the Devils.

RELATED STORIES
With wholesale changes unlikely, Blackhawks need to look within
Blackhawks surrender 5 straight goals in loss to Devils

Blackhawks forward Ryan Hartman (38, battling the Wild's Gustav Olofsson in a 5-2 loss on Oct. 12 at the United Center), has four goals and 10 points, with a plus-2 rating in 17 games this season. He was a healthy scratch against the Devils on Sunday.
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

“It’s part of hockey,” Hartman said. “There’s times where we needed to change things up because things aren’t going well. I went through some of those last year and I came back strong, so I’m looking forward to getting back in.”

Last season, when he was 22 years old, the gritty Hartman was part of the home-grown infusion that helped the Hawks sustain salary-cap losses and propel them to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The 6-foot, 181-pound winger was a grinder who could score, with 19 goals, 31 points and a plus-13 rating in 76 games. After sitting out five games early in the season, Hartman played 68 of the Hawks’ final 69 games, including the four playoff games against the Predators.

But now, Hartman’s season has mirrored the Hawks as a team. After a goal and four assists in the 10-1 blowout of the Penguins, he has only three goals and five points in 16 games.

“Any time your team’s struggling, I think everyone kind of grips the stick too hard,” Hartman said. “Everyone’s trying to produce when teams aren’t producing. My game’s always been playing the corners, play hard, and the goals and points will come, so maybe I was thinking a little too much offensively and not enough about playing hard in the corners and taking the body and stuff like that. I’m looking to bring that when I come back.”

Hartman’s ability to grind and score is a challenging balance for a player who is a grinder first and a scorer second. While Hartman wants to be more physical, coach Joel Quenneville is looking for him to use his skill, as well — and stay out of the penalty box.

“Discipline’s part of it,” Quenneville said. “We’d like to see him with the puck more because he does a lot of good things when it’s on his stick. And find that balance of staying on the ice. Certain guys we know their M.O. is abrasiveness, whether you can be annoying sometimes as far as drawing penalties and [doing] it the right way. He’s been around for a little bit, so everyone’s aware. So find that balance.”

After 70 penalty minutes in 76 games last season, Hartman already has 16 in 17 games this season, and he probably hasn’t seen his last healthy scratch. The key is to keep getting better after each one.

“It’s all part of the process,” said teammate Patrick Sharp, who endured healthy scratches and minor-league stints with the Flyers before becoming a mainstay with the Hawks. “He’s still a productive player, still a big part of our team. There are going to be ups and downs through a player’s career just like through a team’s season. I started my career as an extra forward … did whatever I could to stay in the league.

“I’m not comparing myself to Hartsy in any way. I think he’s head-and-shoulders above where I was at his age. He’s well on is way to having a great career. He’s going to be a big part of our team.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com