Vinnie Hinostroza has become the Blackhawks’ natural chemistry creatoron April 22, 2021 at 8:59 pm

The rest of the Blackhawks were searching for solutions during the second intermission Wednesday when Vinnie Hinostroza turned to Brandon Hagel, trying to pump him up.

“He was saying…if we get out there, let’s be Bash Brothers,” Hagel said after the game, unable to hold back a grin. “We got out there, and I guess we were Bash Brothers with that final goal.”

Hagel eventually scored the overtime goal against the Predators to secure the Hawks’ second-ever win (and first win since 1987) after trailing by three with 10 minutes left.

Hinostroza, meanwhile, set up Hagel for the overtime goal with a slick zone entry. He also forced a Roman Josi turnover that led to Hagel’s assist on Pius Suter’s first-period goal and scored himself off a Kirby Dach pass in the middle of the third-period comeback.

The Chicago native and former Hawks prospect has been a revelation since his Apr. 2 reacquisition, tallying seven points (and a 55.3% shot-attempt ratio) in his first eight Hawks games this season after recording zero points (and a 41.9% shot-attempt ratio) in nine games with the Panthers.

His tenacious work ethic, blazing speed and colorful, optimistic personality have instantly made a difference on and off the ice.

“That earns a lot of respect with the guys,” coach Jeremy Colliton said Thursday. “When you play that hard and are willing to do the dirty work, you become pretty popular inside the walls of the dressing room.”

Colliton’s hands-on coaching style — in contrast with Joel Quenneville’s hands-off approach in Florida — has aided Hinostroza’s abrupt career turnaround.

“It’s nice to have someone that believes in you,” Hinostroza said Wednesday. “It’s nice, on off-days, to get with the coaches and watch some video. They want every guy here to succeed. They work individually here with guys… It’s nice to be here.”

But Hinostroza’s own renewed commitment is the key factor in his turnaround.

He spoke at length last week about how his disastrous Panthers stint — most of which he spent as a healthy scratch — gave him time to reflect on his hockey career so far and what it meant to be in the NHL. “It’s something I’ll never take for granted again,” he said.

And since returning to his hometown, Hinostroza has created instant, tangible chemistry with every fellow Hawks wing he has played with.

First it was with Dominik Kubalik, who gave Hinostroza his first two points of the season by depositing goals off his passes Apr. 8 and 10 against the Stars. Kubalik said the two of them knew “right away…what to expect from each other.”

Next it was with Patrick Kane, one of surprisingly few Hawks holdovers from Hinostroza’s 2015-2018 tenure. Kane and Hinostroza teamed up twice in the win over the Red Wings last weekend.

“I’ve always liked playing with Vinnie,” Kane said Sunday. “It was nice to develop that chemistry and feel we were creating chances, had the puck a lot and [were] making plays out there. I’m looking forward to seeing what that brings here.”

And now it’s with Hagel, the only Hawks skater who might be able to beat Hinostroza in a race.

They look and play the opposite of the original Bash Brothers — 1980s Oakland A’s stars Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco — but the point of the nickname isn’t factual accuracy.

“Their speed is so key,” Colliton said. “It helps our team so much to get out of the ‘D’-zone, push the pace and get through the neutral zone…[and] have more of a forecheck.”

“We have to bring the energy, play hard and be some of the guys first [in] on the forecheck — playing chippy, hitting guys,” Hinostroza added. “When we get out there, we just look at each other and it’s kind of like the Bash Bros.”

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