While they haven’t met since January 26-27, the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators are about to get a face-full of each other over the next few weeks of the season as both teams fight for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Currently, the Blackhawks hold the fourth and final playoff spot with 37 points and a .544 points percentage, three points clear of the Columbus Blue Jackets and four points clear of the Predators. With 21 games left to play, the Blackhawks are in position to control their own destiny in the playoff chase.
• Chicago and Nashville don’t like each other. I think it stems from the Blackhawks owning the Predators in the Central Division for a long time, and then having bounced them from the postseason a number of times when they had pretty talented teams. Nashville seems to have this complex where they constantly have to prove to people they are a good hockey market. It must be hard to do when you’re regularly playing against teams in places like Chicago, Winnipeg, Minnesota, and St. Louis. The 2017 playoff sweep over the Blackhawks was probably just as good as winning the Stanley Cup for the Predators, even though they didn’t. Maybe hang a banner for it, I don’t care.
• Anyhoo, Chicago and Nashville will finish their eight-game season series over the next three weeks, playing each other six times in the next 14 games for Chicago. It’s part of a stretch of the schedule for the Blackhawks that will see them play 12 of their next 14 games against teams that are below them in the Central Division standings. Again, in control of their playoff destiny.
• Chicago is 12-4-2 against the Predators, Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, and Detroit Red Wings this season, the four teams below. them win the standings.
• If the Blackhawks can take care of business against the teams they are supposed to beat, and take a few points from the Hurricanes coming up in a few days, by the time Chicago faces the Tampa Bay Lightning or Florida Panthers again at the end of April, they could have themselves a pretty fluffy cushion in the playoff race. Not that they should ever take their foot off the gas at this point of the season.
• A player that could help them get much needed wins over the Predators, which would be their first of this season, is team points leader Patrick Kane. Yes, I’m calling him out. Kane was held to just two shots on goal and no points in the first two games between the Predators and Blackhawks this season. Nashville is the only team that Kane has not recorded a point against this year. That will need to change.
• Kane is third in the NHL in points this season with 46, trailing Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. His 22:01 minutes per game is the third-most in the league among forwards and is the second-highest average in a season for his career, trailing his 22:29 minutes during the 2018-19 season.
• In his career against the Predators, Kane has 61 points in 67 games, the fourth-most against any team.
• Another player that could help the Blackhawks down the stretch of this season, maybe even against the Predators this weekend, is Kirby Dach.
• I am not advocating on rushing the 20-year-old back to the lineup before he is fully healthy to return from broken wrist surgery, but it looks more and more likely that Dach is going to come back to the lineup sooner than the original late-April timeline suggested.
• In case you missed it, Dach was on the Dropping the Gloves podcast with John Scott, I highly suggest checking out the episode.
• Dach’s return would serve as a pseudo-acquisition for the Blackhawks at the NHL trade deadline, which is approaching on April 12th. While Chicago has a ton of cap space to work with ($23M) thanks to multiple players being placed on LTIR this season, there’s not a sense that the organization has to utilize it if they don’t feel the reward is great enough.
• Earlier this week, President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman spoke about Chicago’s plans for the trade deadline and what the outlook will be like for the team as it heads down the stretch of this season and into the near future.
• Providing an outsider perspective on the club, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was on The Blackhawks Talk Podcast with Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis recently, talking about what he sees Chicago doing at the trade deadline. Friedman also touched on a number of Blackhawks topics like the rebuild, Brent Seabrook’s contract, and Jonathan Toews. Again, highly recommend checking out the full interview.
• A BIG Happy 36th Birthday to former Chicago Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Dustin Byfuglien!
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) March 27, 2021
• I miss Big Buff. He’s the kind of player every team would love to have and the Blackhawks miss having.
• Around the hockey world, we saw an incredible hat-trick goal coming from Tanner Laczynski of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the minor league affiliate for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Wow, Tanner Laczynski! What a way to complete the hatty! pic.twitter.com/CEH84MOTOp
— Brad Keffer (@brad_keffer) March 27, 2021
• Yes, that was to score the hat-trick. Pretty impressive display of hands for the Shorewood, Illinois native and former Ohio State Buckeye.
• Speaking of college hockey, the Men’s Frozen Four tournament got underway yesterday. The Blackhawks started with six college prospects in the tournament, but lost Landon Slaggert before the games began due to Notre Dame having to leave the tournament due to COVID issues. The same happened to the University of Michigan prior to yesterday’s action, which meant that Minnesota-Duluth and Chicago prospect Wyatt Kaiser advanced to the next round automatically. Kaiser and the Bulldogs will face North Dakota in their next game. Another Blackhawks prospect was bounced from the tournament after Josh Ess and the Wisconsin Badgers were upset by Bemidji State yesterday. In action today at Noon CT, the trio of Boston University prospects Drew Commesso, Alex Vlasic, and Jake Wise take on St. Cloud State, with the winner moving on to face Boston College.
• Finally in women’s hockey, the NWHL was able to get their postseason restarted yesterday with the Isobel Cup semifinals. The Boston Pride topped the Toronto Six, and the Minnesota Whitecaps beat the Connecticut Whale to setup the Isobel Cup Final tonight. The matchup of Boston and Minnesota is what the 2020 Isobel Cup Final was supposed to be before the COVID pandemic canceled the NWHL’s playoffs. The “rematch” can be seen on NBCSN in the States and on the NWHL twitch stream everywhere else tonight at 6:00 p.m. CT.
• Have yourselves a Saturday! We’ll see you tonight for Blackhawks-Predators at 7:00 p.m.!