Must-Win Games, Dach's Return Inching Closer, and Other Blackhawks Notes

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Must-Win Games, Dach’s Return Inching Closer, and Other Blackhawks Notes

Chicago Blackhawks

The season is now reaching 60% complete for the Chicago Blackhawks as they prepare for their 34th game of the season. At 15-13-5, Chicago has been on of the middle-of-the-pack teams in the NHL this season, but in a top-heavy Central Division, they hold the fourth and final playoff spot with 35 points.

They face the Florida Panthers tonight after getting a gritty 3-2 win on Tuesday night. It was the first win of the season for Chicago over the Panthers and snapped a four-game losing streak. The win could signal the start of a huge opportunity for the Blackhawks to take control of their playoff hopes, aspirations, and destiny.

•   Here’s something that should make Blackhawks fans very excited, as we reach the closing of the March schedule, 12 of the next 15 games for Chicago are against the teams below them in the Central Division. That includes a stretch from April 3rd to 23rd without seeing the Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, or Carolina Hurricanes.

•   Against the bottom-four teams in the Central Division this season, the Blackhawks hold a 12-4-2 record and a +14 goal-differential in those games.

•   If they can grab another point or two or three in those other three games of the next 15 and then take care of business against the teams below them, Chicago could very well hold their fourth-place positioning heading into the final two weeks fo the season. It starts tonight against the Panthers.

•   One thing that is playing in the favor of the Blackhawks tonight, as it did on Tuesday night, is the absence of Aleksander Barkov from the Panthers’ lineup. Barkov was a late-scratch before Tuesday night’s contest and was listed as “day-to-day” by Florida head coach Joel Quenneville. Barkov was not on the ice for practice yesterday and was announced to be out for tonight’s game.

•   While I don’t cheer injuries, and I hope Barkov is going to be alright, missing him from a tough Panthers lineup is beneficial to the Blackhawks and their playoff push.

•   Speaking of injuries and their benefits to the Blackhawks, it looks like Kirby Dach is getting tantalizingly close to a return to the lineup.

•   I don’t mean to speculate or drive the hype train, but reading the tea leaves makes me think Dach’s return is coming in the next three games, possibly even tonight.

•   We don’t know his condition, other than what we have been told about it improving. But Dach is a 20-year-old elite-level athlete and probably heals faster from aches, pains, and injuries at a much faster rate than you and I. His official timetable for return hasn’t been altered, still would be April 28th based on the doctor assessment, but with the work Dach has put in so far and where he is in practice, don’t be surprised if he is cleared soon. Like in seven hours soon.

•   You do not want to rush Dach back if he is not cleared to go if you are the Blackhawks. There’s no need to risk him aggravating the injury or getting injured in another fashion if he is compensating for it on the ice. Dach is too valuable to the long-term plans in Chicago for a short-sighted move. Again, IF HE IS NOT CLEARED, don’t rush him. If he is medically cleared to go, let the kid play.

•   Listen, if I know anything about Jeremy Colliton’s sly grins, it’s that they don’t come around without some wheels turning in his head.

•   In Blackhawks prospect news, it appears that Notre Dame will not be able to play in the Men’s Frozen Four tournament, set to begin tomorrow. That means 2020 third-round draft pick and standout prospect Landon Slaggert is out of the tournament. Slaggert has been one of the more promising prospects for Chicago this year. Sucks to not see him playing on the big stage in the NCAA.

•   Around the NHL last night, the Buffalo Sabres are just an absolute tire-fire right now. Woof.

•   Buffalo’s last win was on February 23rd, a full month ago. That is a lot of losing. And there’s not a lot of hope in sight without the Sabres being able to move assets like Eric Staal, Taylor Hall, or even Jack Eichel.

•   Imagine heading into this season as a Sabres fan, coming off an offseason where you added Taylor Hall and Eric Staal to the team and by March, you’re trading both of them AND Jack Eichel, the player you thought was going to be the franchise cornerstone. Rough.

•   Also happening around the league this week was a slew of postponed games due to COVID Protocols in the North Division. Most notably, the Montreal Canadiens having a full week’s worth of games getting postponed. It looked like the possibility of getting all the games made up before the end of the season on May 10th was going to be difficult, but the league was able to handle things well enough to have the season extend by just one day.

•   The reason a whole week was put off instead of just one game at a time, like most team’s have had to do: COVID variants.

•   Hopefully everyone with the Canadiens is feeling alright and can make a full and fast recovery.

•   Finally, remember the NWHL season and postseason in the Bubble in Lake Placid? Well, they unfortunately never got to finish that condensed season because of COVID issues. Now, the league is returning to finally crown a proper champion!

•   The four teams that made it to the postseason and final four of the NWHL bubble will get to play-out the Isobel Cup Playoffs after all. The Toronto Six take on the Boston Pride at 4:00 p.m. CT tomorrow, while the Minnesota Whitecaps take on the Connecticut Whale at 7:00 p.m. CT, with the winners meeting in the Isobel Cup Final on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. CT. All games will be available on the NWHL’s Twitch channel and on NBCSN in the US.

•   That’s all for today. Have yourselves a Thursday!

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Author: Mario Tirabassi

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