The Chicago Blackhawks got back on a winning-streak last night with a 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers. It signaled Chicago’s second win against the Panthers this season and a full fledged breakout of the slump the Blackhawks had been in during the month of March. Chicago is now 16-13-5 on the season with 37 points in the standings and a .544 points percentage. They sit in the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division, three points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets and four points ahead of the Nashville Predators, who is next on Chicago’s schedule.
• Then Blackhawks have not seen the Predators since January 26-27, when they lost both games in extra time. On Saturday, Chicago welcomes the Predators to the United Center for the first time this season, and the teams will meet up six times over the next 14 games for the Blackhawks.
• In fact, over the next 14 games for Chicago, 12 come against the four teams sitting below them in the standings. Only the two- game series against the Carolina Hurricanes on March 30th-April 1st stands between the Blackhawks being able to pad their current cushion in fourth-place in the Division.
• Chicago is 12-4-2 against the Predators, Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, and Detroit Red Wings this season with a +13 goal differential.
• They will be taking a boatload of confidence into the upcoming mini-series against Nashville, having just earned a two-game sweep over the Panthers, winning both games in regulation and snapping a four-game losing streak heading into the series.
• The player with the most confidence is likely Kevin Lankinen. After going 1-4-1 to begin the month of March, Lankinen got both starts against the Panthers and earned both wins.
• Lankinen made 74 of 76 saves in the two games, earning his second shutout of the season last night in the 3-0 win for Chicago making 41 saves.
Highly impressive in shutting out the high-powered offence of the Panthers in his @NHLBlackhawks 3-0 win on Thursday night, rookie goalie Kevin Lankinen set a new single game high in CHI franchise history when it comes to this list of freshmen goalies to record a goose egg effort pic.twitter.com/Te9Osw0RQr
— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) March 26, 2021
• After bursting out of the gate early this season as a Calder Trophy front-runner for Rookie of the Year, Lankinen has slowly fell back down to Earth and is now performing at just above a league-average level for the season with a .920 save percentage and a 2.71 GAA. Before the season, we had hoped that The Blackhawks could just get league-average goaltending out of one of their three options in net. Check.
Colliton on Lankinen: "He’s been really solid, just under control. He made some big saves but he was comfortable there. He’s been working hard. Hopefully this is a real confidence-builder." #Blackhawks
— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) March 26, 2021
• The 25-year-old rookie has made quite the impact on and off the ice for the Blackhawks. His personality is infectious and he never seems to have a bad day, even when he has a bad day in net. He’s becoming a quick fan favorite and he deserves to get a full United Center crowd chanting “KEV-IN! KEV-IN!”
Kevin Lankinen on if he thinks about what a full United Center would be like:
"I think about it quite a lot. I like to imagine and visualize the building being full of loud Blackhawks fans."
— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) March 26, 2021
• Another reason a full United Center would be a treat for the Blackhawks would be to cheer on a more physically engaged team. In their mini-series against the Lightning, they were actively NOT engaging Tampa Bay’s physicality and they were bullied up and down the ice. Against the Panthers, the Blackhawks found some push back and were not going to let Florida impose themselves on the relatively light Blackhawks team.
• A big hit from Nikita Zadorov on Patric Hornqvist and a Ryan Carpenter fight against MacKenzie Weegar were part if the spark in last night’s win for Chicago.
Colliton on Carpenter's hit and fight: "He’s got some jam, for sure… It was clean. We did that tonight. Zadorov had a couple huge hits, which I also thought were clean. Cal had one. We want to be hard to play against between the whistles."
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) March 26, 2021
• We’ve talked about big boy hockey, that was big boy hockey.
• The Blackhawks also showed how to close a game last night. Leading 2-0 in the third period, Chicago didn’t fall into turtle mode, but rather pressured the Panthers down the stretch.
Until the last 72 seconds of the game, the #Blackhawks had gone 8:31 without allowing the Panthers a shot on goal while up 2-0. Florida got one just after Hagel’s empty-netter.
— Carter Baum (@CarterBaum) March 26, 2021
• Again, big boy hockey. That’s why you need to see when you are trying to be a playoff contender.
• In other news, a Happy Blackhawks birthday to Connor Murphy!
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) March 26, 2021
• Released earlier today, Kirby Dach was on the Dropping The Gloves podcast with former Blackhawks enforcer John Scott. Dach talked about his recovery, his first year in the NHL, and how the Blackhawks have found success this season. Give it a listen.
• As for Dach’s return, it’s still not on a set timetable. It could be this weekend, it could be in a month. We’re still not clear.
Jeremy Colliton won't say if there's any chance Kirby Dach plays this weekend. Taking it "day by day." Still ramping him up, want him to feel "ready to run someone over."
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) March 26, 2021
• Also speaking publicly, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman talked with Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers of The Athletic, covering everything from the upcoming trade deadline, the rebuilding strategy, and Jonathan Toews’ return. Again, check the whole thing out.
• Speaking of the trade deadline, we have a trade to announce!
Montreal sends a third- and fifth-round pick to Buffalo for Eric Staal.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 26, 2021
• The Sabres are going to be one of the teams active as the deadline approaches. Staal is the first trade since the Pierre-Luc Dubois for Patric Laine trade to set the market as April 12th nears.
• As for how this deal affects the Blackhawks, the return for Staal, with 50% of his salary retained by Buffalo, was two mid-round picks in 2021. Chicago’s biggest trade bait pieces, Mattias Janmark and Carl Söderberg, will not fetch the same kind of return. I wouldn’t get my hopes up to see a big return in any trades made by Stan Bowman prior to the April 12th deadline. Aside from a deal being made that includes Dylan Strome.
• We could likely see Chicago not make any trades at the deadline, given Bowman’s answers in his discussion with The Athletic, and hold onto the players that will help them in the playoff chase now.
• Man, the Sabres have been SO BAD.
The Buffalo Sabres have now played 100 games since they signed Jeff Skinner to a $72-million, $9-million-a-year, 8-year deal.
They’ve won 36 of them.
Has has 27 points.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) March 26, 2021
• Buffalo is a hockey-starved market, the fans deserve a winner so much.
• Hey, if they are bad enough for the next few years, they might land themselves Connor Bedard.
Another two-point night for Connor Bedard, who now has 12 points in 7 games in the WHL as a 15-year-old. He leads Regina in scoring by three points.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) March 26, 2021
• Kid is nuts.
• Speaking of kids, Blackhawks college prospect Wyatt Kaiser got himself an easy advancement to the next round of the Frozen Four tournament. After Notre Dame was removed from the tournament because of COVID issues yesterday, the University of Michigan was removed today prior to their game against Minnesota-Duluth for the same issues. Kaiser and the Bulldogs await the winner of the AIC-North Dakota game.
• Also in the Men’s Forzen Four tournament, Blackhawks prospect Josh Ess and Wisconsin were upset by Bemidji State, 6-3, ending his Senior season with the Badgers. Ess, a 2017 seventh-round pick by Chicago, is not likely to sign his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks.
Pierre Dorion's reaction to Justin Holl's OT winner pic.twitter.com/4BbwpJKkLd
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) March 26, 2021
• Needless to say, my personal reaction to the Wisconsin loss was much like Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion’s reaction to the Senators loss to the Maple Leafs last night. Things were thrown.
• Finally, the NWHL Isobel Cup Playoffs resume today with two semi-final games. The Boston Pride take on the Toronto Six at 4:00 p.m. CT and the Minnesota Whitecaps take on the Connecticut Whale at 7:00 p.m. CT tonight. The winners move on to the Isobel Cup Final tomorrow. All games are on NBCSN in the US and on the NWHL Twitch channel everywhere else.