Snap Back to Reality, Strome's Return, McDavid's Ridiculous Pace, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Snap Back to Reality, Strome’s Return, McDavid’s Ridiculous Pace, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks were due for a dose of reality. And when you looked closely at the schedule, March was the the obvious window.

Entering the month at 12-7-4 and tied for the third-most points in the NHL, Chicago was riding high heading into their three-game set with the Tampa Bay Lightning to open the difficult month. The Blackhawks had a seven-point cushion over the Columbus Blue Jackets and a .109 points percentage gap between them and the Dallas Stars in the Central Division standings. Things were going well.

Then, they fell back down to Earth. Having gone 2-5-1 over their last eight games, including losing five of the last six in regulation, the Blackhawks’ cushion in the Central Division playoff race has dwindled to just two points and a .032 points percentage gap over the Blue Jackets. Things are getting tight around the collar for Chicago and they won’t get much easier anytime soon.

•   The Blackhawks blew another lead last night. Not as dramatic as some of their more recent blown leads, but a lead lost nonetheless. They have also lost their last three games in-a-row in which they have scored the game’s opening goal.

•   Chicago wasn’t necessarily out-played or out-classed against the Lightning last night in the 4-2 defeat. Just…not good enough.

•   Against a team like the Lightning, any chance they give you has to be capitalized upon because they do not give many chances up. Even when you play well against a team like that, you don’t always get the result. That was the case for Chicago last night.

•   A positive takeaway from last night was the return of Dylan Strome to the Blackhawks lineup. After missing the last 11 games due to a concussion, Strome returned in a big way.

•   A power play goal in his first game back marked the end of what was an eight-game goalless drought for the 24-year-old forward. Strome now has five goals and nine points in 20 games this season.

•   Strome’s name has come up in a number of trade scenarios for the Blackhawks as the deadline on April 12th approaches. We discussed Strome’s situation in Chicago a few days ago, and in last night’s observations from the game, Mark Lazerus of The Athletic wrote that trading Strome would be “foolish” of the Blackhawks.

Since Strome arrived in November 2018, he’s fourth among Blackhawks in points. Fourth in points per game. Fourth in even-strength points. Fourth in power-play assists. And though he’s underwater in possession and expected goals, he’s also fourth in actual goals percentage over a significant enough sample — 136 games — to make it clear he’s one of those guys who consistently outperforms his metrics thanks to his high-end offensive talent. In nearly every offensive category, after Kane, DeBrincat and Toews, it’s Strome. Has been for a while now. – Mark Lazerus, The Athletic

•   Strome would likely get the best return of any of the names that have been thrown around trade discussions for the Blackhawks (Janmark, Söderberg, Strome, Zadorov) but are NHL GMs really chomping at the bit to get a second-fiddle forward like Strome? Not so sure.

•   At 24-years-old and on a rather cheap deal ($3M AAV for 2021-22), Strome likely won’t get dealt this season and if he can stay healthy and finish the year strong, could potentially stay with the team through the offseason and be a part of their lineup heading into 2021-22 with the chance of a 1-2-3 punch down the middle of Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach, and Strome for the Blackhawks (assuming Toews returns to health at some point in the near future). There’s a world where he is part of the long-term build for Chicago.

•   Yesterday morning, Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said that the hope was for Dylan Strome to return to the lineup “soon.” Later, minutes before puck drop, Strome was activated off injured reserve and was in the lineup. Colliton also spoke about the potential for Kirby Dach to be on his way back soon.

•   Both Dach and Strome had been skating with the team during practices prior to and during their current six-game road trip. Getting both players healthy and back into the lineup before the end of this month would be a huge boost to the Blackhawks heading into the final month and a half stretch of the season.

•   While the Lightning are currently causing me and the Blackhawks a ton of frustration, this is a really cool way of engaging the fans and giving the players a bit of a boost before games.

•   That’s honestly so cool.

•   You know who is not cool, but rather on fire? Connor McDavid. Shocking right? McDavid leads the NHL in scoring with 56 points this season. He’ll likely run away with the Art Ross as the league-leader in points at the end of the season and probably will win another Hart Trophy as league MVP. Sucks because Patrick Kane is having arguably his best season ever, but McDavid might be having the best season we’ve seen in nearly 25 years.

•   Granted, this is only a hypothetical based on his scoring pace, but McDavid would have the best season in the NHL since the 1995-96 season at his current pace over an 82-game schedule. The last players to score 50+ goals and 140+ points in a season were Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr with the Penguins in 1995-96. Lemieux scored 69 goals in 70 games played and scored at a 2.30 points per game pace. That is nuts.

•   TGIF Friday, have a good one, everyone! (Especially Bears fans, ya’ll need it.)

Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.