Playoff Hopes Fading, Reality Setting In, Marleau Makes History, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Playoff Hopes Fading, Reality Setting In, Marleau Makes History, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

A little bit of hope died last night in a 5-2 loss by the Chicago Blackhawks to the Nashville Predators, their sixth loss to the Predators this season. Watching the opening of the third period, I felt like I was Ralph Wiggum when Lisa Simpson broke his heart, I could see and feel the exact moment my playoff spirit for the Blackhawks broke. It was the Luke Kunin goal to make it a 5-2 game. Damnit, Luke. Why did it have to be a former Wisconsin Badger to break my heart like that?

With the loss, and a Dallas Stars win last night, the Blackhawks fell to sixth-place in the Central Division. They trail the Predators by four points in the standings and now trail the Stars by a point for fifth-place. Two more games remain against the Predators this season and it is unlikely, given the history between the Blackhawks and Predators over the last four years, that Chicago will make a miraculous turnaround and get right back into contention. I’m happy to be wrong, but I don’t think I will be.

•   I ran this poll last night following the game. Even with the recency-bias of the result, it appears overwhelmingly that Blackhawks fans are feeling the same sense. The thought of making the playoffs is all but over.

•   Faltering in big moments has somewhat become the calling card for the Blackhawks under head coach Jeremy Colliton. Aside from winning the play-in series against an unmotivated Edmonton Oilers team last summer, when the lights have shined brightest on the Blackhawks in the past three seasons, when they’ve had big moments to swing momentum or move up in the standings, or even get a win on a special night (Patrick Kane’s 1,000th game comes to mind), they fall flat more often than not.

•   I’m not sure where they go from here, but a win on Wednesday for Chicago, and for Detroit, would do wonders for the sliver of hope and optimism that still resides in my heart and the hearts of many other Blackhawks fans.

•   Punches in bunches will do a lot of damage in boxing or MMA, and the same goes for hockey with goals coming in quick succession. Chicago allowed two goals in 51 seconds in the second period to blow Nashville’s lead at the time to 3-1, and then started the third period with two goals in 18 seconds to drive the nail in the coffin of the game.

•   Bad defensive reads and turnovers continue to plague the Blackhawks. But, it also doesn’t help when it feels like the Hockey Gods, who once smiled upon the Blackhawks, have now turned their backs to them.

•   The most egregious incident was on the 4-2 goal to open the third period. Connor Murphy loses his helmet in a puck battle and, by rule, must immediately leave the ice if he cannot retrieve his helmet. Murphy leaves, two Predators are left unchecked in front of Kevin Lankinen, Nashville scores.

•   You can see in the video, Murphy’s helmet doing almost as good of a job as the Blackhawks on defense.

•   18 seconds after the 4-2 goal, Duncan Keith blows a tire in transition and Luke Kunin is left wide open in front of Kevin Lankinen and buries the 5-2 goal. Game over.

•   It didn’t help last night that the Blackhawks were shorthanded defensively for about 90% of the game. Early in the first period, defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk took a hit along the boards and had to leave the game. He didn’t return and Chicago was down to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

•   Chicago was also a bit shorthanded in their forwards group as well, with Brandon Hagel being a late scratch after a delay with his COVID test results. After the game, it was revealed he had another false positive test and didn’t get his result in time to play. This is the second time Hagel has had a false positive in three weeks.

•   With Hagel out, newly acquired forward Adam Gaudette would make his Blackhawks debut on the first line with Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach. Talk about a big opportunity in your first game.

•   And talk about not getting a chance to take advantage of it. Although Gaudette did register his first assist as a Blackhawk on David Kämpf’s goal to make it 3-2 in the second period, Gaudette was not given ample ice-time.

•   Chicago has ten games remaining this season. All ten of them are now going to be against teams that are ahead of them in the Central Division standings. Of the Predators, Blackhawks, and Stars, Chicago has the toughest schedule ahead of them as the three teams battle for the final playoff spot. I’m an optimistic person, but I’m not that optimistic.

•    Hey! Here’s some good news for Blackhawks and Bulls fans, apparently Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot believes that fans may return to the United Center before the seasons end!

•   Just in time for the Blackhawks to possibly not be in the playoff hunt. Woo.

•   It’s a somewhat somber Blackhawks birthday today as Brent Seabrook turns 36 -years-old today. You hate to see a player that has meant so much to the organization for so many years not get to celebrate his birthday with his teammates, like I’m sure he expected to do a few months ago.

•   As much as his play had declined in recent years, you still gotta love Brent Seabrook and his legacy with the Blackhawks.

•   Speaking of legacies, a huge milestone record was broken in the NHL last night as Patrick Marleau passed Gordie Howe for the most NHL games every played with his 1,768th game.

•   Marleau is a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame with over 500 goals in his career and nearing 1,200 points. He now holds the record for most NHL games played and was part of two Olympic Gold Medal teams with Canada in 2010 and 2014. He has 195 career Stanley Cup playoff games under his belt as well.

•   Marleau was honored last night by seemingly everyone across the NHL last night, but the most attention-grabbing tribute came from his former teammates with the Toronto Maple Leafs as young stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner paid tribute, with a cameo from Marleau’s long-time San Jose Sharks teammate Joe Thornton.

•   You can see just how much every one of his 1,768 games has meant to Marleau.

•   What an honor for such a likable player and person. Congratulations!

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

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Author: Mario Tirabassi

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