The Chicago Blackhawks took Saturday off. They are taking Sunday off as well. They play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night at the United Center. Between now and then, a lot of self-evaluation needs to take place as they head into the final eight games of the season with their playoff hopes in the Central Division all but dashed away. Part of the evaluation process is figuring out who will and will not be with the Blackhawks in the short and long-term futures and the final eight games of the season gives Chicago an opportunity to get one last look, or a first look, at which players fit the bill.
• One player that will clearly be part of the future for the Blackhawks is Riley Stillman. The Blackhawks signed the 23-year-old defenseman to a three-year contract extension on Sunday morning, running through the end of the 2023-24 season.
Back for more!
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 25, 2021
• Stillman has made quite the impression on the organization in just six games with Chicago since coming to the team at the NHL Trade Deadline. Averaging 16:43 minutes per game in his time with the Blackhawks, Stillman has the mixture of defensive skills and physicality in his game that Chicago lacks in most of their NHL-level defensive prospects and President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman appears to be a big fan of Stillman.
"He is growing into an excellent all-around defenseman and that continued development is something we look forward to seeing firsthand."
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 25, 2021
• With the extension, Stillman is the active Blackhawks defenseman with the longest term on their contract. The only Blackhawks defenseman at the NHL-level without a contract for next season is Nikita Zadorov.
• Stillman’s extension all but ends Zadorov’s tenure with the Blackhawks. While it will save the Blackhawks money and give a younger, similar type of player the ability to grow with the Blackhawks, Zadorov not working out with Chicago sucks for the team and for Stan Bowman, especially. He has now lost two Brandon Saad trades in spectacular fashion and deserves all the criticism he’ll get for those moves.
• Zadorov was supposed to be a defense-first, physical presence for the Blackhawks that could eat minutes and provide that spark on the blue-line. He was physical, but that was it. Zadorov still has a long career ahead of him at 26-years-old, but as a restricted free agent this summer, it won’t be with Chicago. I’m 99.9% sure of it.
• Signing Stillman could also be the first step in the Blackhawks going younger. Even younger than they are now. We talked about it yesterday, the Blackhawks should play as many young players and rookies that they can in the final eight games of the season to see the full depth of the organization. Players like Stillman and Henrik Borgström from the Panthers are likely going to be pieces to the 2021-22 puzzle. Lukas Reichel may be coming over next season as well. Chicago needs to see who will also be fighting for those spots and where they fit in before they get to training camp in September.
• Another note on “Prospects” as it appears the red-hot Max Shalunov will be unavailable for a pivotal Game Five in the KHL Gagarin Cup Final.
CSKA Moscow's Max Shalunov has been suspended for Game 5 of the #GagarinCupFinal on Monday for his illegal hit to the head in Game 4 Saturday. The series is tied 2-2 with Avangard Omsk.
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) April 25, 2021
• Switching gears back to the current Blackhawks, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Ben Pope did a great write-up on the Blackhawks penalty-kill recently and how they have killed their last 17 power plays against them.
• Since March 25th, the Blackhawks rank second in the NHL on the penalty-kill with a 90.6% kill-rate. They have killed their last 17 in-a-row over their last seven games and have moved their once league-worst penalty-kill up to 27th in the NHL at 76.5% for the season.
• From Pope’s piece: the Blackhawks replaced Carl Söderberg and Mattias Janmark on the penalty-kill after the trade deadline with Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat. They have also used Riley Stillman more on the second penalty-kill unit and the results speak for themselves in a small sample size.
Through the Hawks’ first 41 games, their penalty kill allowed 1.65 shot attempts and 0.85 scoring chances per minute — 25th and 22nd, respectively, in the league. In the last seven games, the Hawks’ penalty kill has allowed 1.07 shot attempts and 0.53 scoring chances per minute — second in the league in both categories.
• Dach and DeBrincat provide the Blackhawks with a “power-kill” option on the second unit, giving them the chance to create offense the opposite way between the two of them against power plays that will sometimes feature just one defenseman or a five-forward look. It’s risky, but it’s paying off for head coach Jeremy Colliton as Dach and DeBrincat improve their defensive responsibilities.
• And now for some bits from around the NHL. First, did you know the Ottawa Senators have not been shutout ONCE this season?
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 24, 2021
• I spy the Blackhawks.
• Keith Yandle, who almost didn’t play the opening game of the season for the Panthers, is now second on the NHL all-time Ironman list.
— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) April 24, 2021
• 915-straight NHL games played. That’s incredible. The record is held by Doug Jarvis, who played 964-straight NHL games. That would be every game of his NHL career with the Canadiens, Capitals, and Hartford Whalers from 1975 to 1987.
• Speaking of records, Wayne Gretzky might be seeing one of his fall in the next few years if Sidney Crosby continues to play at his all-world level.
Players to start their career with 16-plus consecutive point-per-game seasons in NHL history:
Wayne Gretzky (19)
Sidney Crosby (16)
That's it. That's the list. pic.twitter.com/87CB0kITEy
— Penguins PR (@PenguinsPR) April 24, 2021
• Crosby ranks tied for sixth in the NHL in scoring this season with 55 points in 47 games. He also reached the 20-goal mark for the 13th time in his 16 NHL seasons. Crosby has 1,318 points in 1,031 career NHL games. His 1.28 points per game mark for his career is third all-time in Penguins franchise history for players who have played at least 400 games with the club. He ranks behind Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux in that category and only trails Lemieux (1,723) for the franchise all-time lead in points.
• That will do it for today, enjoy your Sunday!