Closing the Book on the Playoff Hopes, How To Handle These Last Eight Games, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Closing the Book on the Playoff Hopes, How To Handle These Last Eight Games, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Well, that does it.

I think we can officially put the Chicago Blackhawks’ aspirations for the Stanley Cup Playoff to rest. With a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators last night, the Blackhawks fall to five points out of fourth-place in the Central Division with eight games remaining in the 2021 season. According to The Atheltic’s Dom Luszczyszyn, the Blackhawks have a projected 2% chance at making the postseason after last night’s defeat. MoneyPuck.com is even bleaker with just a 1.6% chance of making the playoffs.

It’s over.

•   Hello down there,  old friends.

•   The Blackhawks have eight games left this season, all of which are against teams ahead of them in the standings. The next six coming against the top three teams in the Central Division (including three of the top five teams in the NHL based on points), and the other two are against the Dallas Stars. I just don’t see the Blackhawks winning seven of those last eight to have a shot at keeping their postseason dreams alive.

•   I truly wish you luck, Patrick. I really do.

•   Chicago finishes the season with a 1-5-2 record against the Predators, scoring 14 goals in eight games, officially fewer goals scored against Nashville this season than against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Who expected that?

•   Bottom line for the eight-game season series: The Predators were the Blackhawks’ daddy.

•   Patrick Kane was held to mere mortal numbers.

•   And it’s not just this season, either. In 20 games against the Predators since 2017-18, Kane has a 1.8 shooting percentage, with one goal on 55 shots.

•   Juuse Saros was a brick wall for five of his six starts against the Blackhawks, earning at least a point in each of them.

•   Nashville held the Blackhawks’ powerplay to their fewest goals against an opponent all season, going 23-for-25 on the penalty-kill in eight games against Chicago. The Blackhawks have at least four powerplay goals against every other Central Division team so far this season.

•   Last night was just another example of how much better the Predators have been systematically than the Blackhawks over the past five years. Chicago had 23 shots on goal through the first 30 minutes of the game, then just seven shots on goal through the second 30 minutes of the game. The Blackhawks out-chanced the Predators last night through 40 minutes, but the Predators were able to stuff and stifle the Blackhawks offense when they needed it the most in the third period. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Throw chair.

•   It wasn’t always like this, you know.

•   On this day, 11 (!) years ago. Good times.

•   So where do we go from here? The Blackhawks have eight games left and they are going to “tank” because they’re professionals and as long as they have a mathematical chance at the postseason, they’re going to play for it. But I figure a loss on Tuesday to the Lightning, which is probable, will put the calculators down on Chicago’s mathematical chances.

•   I would love to see the Blackhawks play all of their young players down the final stretch against good teams, who won’t have much to play for (besides playoff positioning). Teams will want to go into games against Chicago and just want to come out of them healthy. Giving young players the opportunity to play significant minutes against more talented teams can give you one last sample of what you have in the organization.

•   And yes, the Blackhawks have played a TON of young players already this season, but I’m talking about getting Nicolas Beaudin and Ian Mitchell into the lineup regularly. Giving Mike Hardman his NHL debut and bringing in MacKenzie Entwistle from Rockford. Play Collin Delia, for once, and maybe give guys who haven’t had a shot in the NHL yet their first go of it, like Andrei Altybarmakyan or Alec Regula.

•   You also have to see where players on expiring contracts stand with the organization. Vinnie Hinostroza is making a case to be part of the Blackhawks next season, but where does a player like Adam Gaudette fit in? Is Riley Stillman for real as a replacement for Nikita Zadorov? These are some questions that the final eight games can give the organization clarity on.

•   Another thing the Blackhawks can do in these final games is tone-down the minutes for Kirby Dach. Last night was a heart-skipping moment when Dach came out of a play, skating off the ice hold his wrist, his same surgically repaired wrist, in the same fashion as when he broke it at the World Juniors.

•   He returned to the game and played the final period. He was alright in the end but holy shit was this a scary moment. I have no problems with him coming back early and giving it a go on a less than 100% healthy wrist to try to help the Blackhawks as part of the playoff push. He did that with seven points in 14 games since his return, but last night was a signal to dial it back for his long-term health. He is still going through pain in the wrist and it could be the reason he has been reluctant to SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK when he has scoring chances. You know he is a cornerstone to the future, but he doesn’t have to be the one to try to drag the team into the postseason at this stage of the schedule.

•   *sigh* When’s the draft? July 23-24. Cool.

•   Blackhawks have three days off before facing the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Tuesday. I suggest using the time to figure out a plan for the final eight games of the season to be competitive but also try to go as low in the standings as possible for a better draft position. If the season ended today, the Blackhawks would draft in the 12th spot.

•   This is the best advice I can give right now on a day where I have very little optimism for the short-term to give you:

•   That’ll do it for today. Hopefully you can all enjoy your Saturday.



Author: Mario Tirabassi

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