The Central Division Just Got Tougher, COVID Issues Everywhere, Signing Shalunov? And Other Blackhawks Bullets

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The Central Division Just Got Tougher, COVID Issues Everywhere, Signing Shalunov? And Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

There were some favorable results in the Central Division last night, as both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars lost. Chicago remains two points back of the Nashville Predators for fourth-place in the Division, but things are not going to get any easier as the season continues down the final stretch of games.

•   Chicago has lost 10 of their last 14 games, all in regulation. Over that 14-game stretch, they have been outscored 48-30 and are averaging just 2.14 goals per game since March 7th, which ranks 27th in the NHL.

•   More damning numbers for the Blackhawks over their last 14 games include a league-worst 68.6% on the penalty-kill and a league-worst 45.0% at the face-off dot. They have also lost every game since March 7th in which their opponent has scored first (0-6-0).

•   Chicago’s four wins since March 7th have come against the Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers (twice), and the Carolina Hurricanes. Their next nine games come against teams that are in the Central Division playoff chase, but when they get back to facing the top teams in the Central, they’ll face the Lightning once more, the Panthers twice, and the Hurricanes three times. Making matters more difficult for the Blackhawks in May, the Hurricanes just got their top goaltender, Petr Mrazek, back in the lineup. And he hasn’t missed a step.

•   Out since January 30th with a thumb injury, Mrazek improved his record to 3-1-0 last night, with his third shutout win of the season in just five starts. Mrazek had three shutouts in 40 games last season.


•   Along with James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic, the Hurricanes have combined for the NHL’s seventh-best team save percentage at .913. The Lightning (.913) and the Panthers (.916) both rank inside the top-seven of the league this season.

•   Chicago is coming up to a nine-game stretch where they will play the Predators three times and the Stars, Red Wings, and Blue Jackets twice each. The Blackhawks are coming up on the Blue Jackets and Stars at good times as they have been inconsistent over their last ten games. Dallas is 4-3-3, while Columbus is 3-6-1.

•   Speaking of the Stars. COVID shenanigans popped their head into the Stars and Hurricanes game last night.

•   I still don’t understand how games are being played before test results are in and all players, coaches, and staff are cleared.

•   Fortunately for the Stars, it appears all will work out for them and there should be no other issues stemming from this situation in the coming days.

•   The Stars are, to my knowledge, one of the only teams in the NHL that have gone public with vaccine information about their players and coaches.

•   The Stars are next on the calendar for the Blackhawks, as they come to Chicago for a two-game set starting tomorrow night. These COVID issues apparently will not hinder their travel plans.

•   All this going on at the same time that the Vancouver Canucks are dealing with essentially their entire team and staff coming out with positive COVID tests, many of which are a variant strand which the league has not dealt with this season.

•   We’re hoping for full and healthy recoveries for everyone in the Canucks organization. That’s what is most important at this time.

•   Changing gears, a Happy 33rd Birthday to Zack Smith!

•   Still not sure what happened to Smith that has kept him out for the entire season with a back injury as he was apparently cleared to return to the Blackhawks prior to the start of the season before being sidelined at the start of training camp.

•  In case you missed it yesterday, eight players were on the move for the Blackhawks yesterday.

•   Speaking of players on the move, or potentially on the move, the Chicago Blackhawks could really be at the point where signing Russian prospect Maxim Shalunov is a real possibility. I recommend reading Max Shalunov’s best friend Scott Powers’ latest in The Athletic about the reasons why the Blackhawks should sign the 28-year-old winger.

•   That’ll do it for today, have yourselves a good Monday!

Author: Mario Tirabassi

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