Pirri not satisfied with just offensive heroics

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Pirri could easily have boasted about being the offensive hero of the Blackhawks’ 5-4 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.

Pirri first forced overtime by scoring the lone third-period goal by redirecting a shot from Brent Seabrook in front of the net, then came through in the fourth round of the shootout, beating Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith to give the Blackhawks the victory.

Pirri didn’t view himself as the hero, though. When the media gathered around the 22-year-old to discuss his night, he wasn’t exactly celebrating his performance.

“It’s big, but it’s not one of my better games,” Pirri said. “I think I have a lot of room to improve. It’s back to work and try to put together a full 60. I think I've got room to improve defensively. Today was a step back for me. You know, we got the win, and that’s what’s important right now.

“They know what I can do offensively. If I put together a solid game, 60 minutes in all three zones, that’s what they want to see. Playing with talented guys, I've got to play good in all three zones and get them the puck.”

That’s exactly the message the Blackhawks have been sending Pirri for the past few years. While Pirri has constantly proved himself as a capable offensive player -- he led the AHL in scoring last season -- his defensive game hasn’t been where Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has wanted it.

On Thursday, the Blackhawks had 46 shots on goal to the Coyotes’ 26 at even strength, but Pirri wasn’t much of a factor in helping build that advantage. He was on the ice for two goals for and two goals against, and, by the measure of teams' shot differential, he had 11 Corsi for and 10 Corsi against. By comparison, Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa had a plus-18 Corsi.

“That’s a work in progress,” Quenneville said of Pirri’s defense. “Offensively, he’s got some ability. Obviously, he scored two big goals for us tonight. I just think it’s a tough league. We’re learning to play without the puck, particularly down low in our end. You get better and stronger and more aware.

“I think they’re starting to understand the expectation of positionally where to be and the quickness and the support, and predictable and reliable is what we’ll continue to reinforce. We expect progress.”

And so now does Pirri.