I don’t know where to begin after last night. The Chicago Blackhawks lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-4 in a game that was never really “in reach.” The Lightning finish the season with a 7-0-1 record against Chicago and last night was a showcase that the Blackhawks, while a much better team now than they were at the beginning of the year, are still a long ways away from being a true contender. They are also still at least another year away from being a solid playoff contending team. Although still mathematically alive in this year’s Stanley Cup playoff chase, it’s been over.
• Making matters worse last night, the Blackhawks lost defenseman Adam Boqvist to a broken wrist in the second period, ending his 2021 season.
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) April 28, 2021
• This season was supposed to be a building block for Boqvist following an up and down rookie year in 2019-20. When he was healthy, Boqvist was one of the best defensemen the Blackhawks had this season. It’s not saying much, but with this roster, Boqvist being relied on as one of the top guys was best for his development and confidence.
• Here’s where Boqvist ranks this season among Blackhawks defensemen, at all strengths, with at least 100 minutes played, according to Natural Stat Trick:
⇒ Chances-For%: 55.06 (1st)
⇒ Shots-For%: 54.03 (1st)
⇒ Goals-For%: 55.74 (2nd)
⇒ Expected Goals-For%: 53.21 (1st)
⇒ High-Danger Chances-For%: 51.49 (1st)
⇒ Points Per 60-minutes: 1.61 (3rd)
⇒ Individual Expected Goals-For per 60-minutes: 0.27 (1st)
• The problem is that Boqvist dealt with a great deal of physical issues this season. He had COVID earlier this year, dealt with concussion-related concerns, and now a broken wrist will end his season. A rough way to go for what was a more promising season for the second-year defenseman.
• It was always going to be a tall task for the Blackhawks to overcome the Lightning, especially given the circumstances last night. But the dominance of Andrei Vasilevskiy against the Blackhawks in his career just continues to amaze me. He is undefeated against Chicago in 11 games against them, 11-0-0, not even an overtime or shootout loss. Even when the Blackhawks have historically gotten to him, it hasn’t been enough.
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) April 28, 2021
• Then there was Nikita Zadorov’s game last night, where he was very much in character being out of position twice that led to Tampa Bay goal. Went out of his way to hit Patrick Maroon, and in the process left Patrick Kane to play defense, and got into a fight with Luke Schenn and lost. It was all a microcosm of what he has not been for the Blackhawks this season: worth it. There’s no way he can come back after this year, especially if he is asking for a raise in restricted free agency.
• Also fighting last night, and losing, was defenseman Connor Murphy. This fight with Erik Cernak was a few weeks in the making and Murphy didn’t get the better of the exchange. He also got a nice 17-minute stay in the penalty box for his troubles. All this coming after the Boqvist hit that broke his wrist, so the Blackhawks were down to four defenseman for a large portion of the back-half of the game. Not an ideal situation against a team like the Lightning.
Colliton has been reluctant in the past to have players fight, but he liked that Zadorov and Murphy stuck up for teammates tonight: "It was important. It showed some character. … The guys appreciated it."
— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) April 28, 2021
• Character. Sure. I just don’t know how much real appreciation there should be for a player like Murphy, who is one of the better defensemen on the roster, sitting for 17 minutes after another one of your defensemen is out for the game. Just doesn’t seem smart.
• This game was off the rails for a large portion of it, and the Blackhawks were on the wrong end of the physicality for most of the night. Dominik Kubalík took this high hit from Schenn early in the game, part of the reason Zadorov fought Schenn. Kubalík returned to the game, but hopefully there’s nothing else that comes from this hit as far as his health goes.
Things are escalating at the UC… pic.twitter.com/E0FqeaaUmg
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) April 28, 2021
• Blackhawks rookie Mike Hardman made his debut with the team last night and laid-out seven hits in just under ten minutes of ice-time. Living up to his name.
Game 1: Ian Mitchell, Pius Suter
Game 2: Philipp Kurashev
Game 4: Kevin Lankinen
Game 10: Reese Johnson
Game 26: Wyatt Kalynuk
Game 33: MacKenzie Entwistle
Game 49: Mike Hardman
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) April 27, 2021
• Another game without fans at the United Center and another Blackhawks modern legend being sent off without the proper ovation.
Every Mutt Has His Day ❤️
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 28, 2021
• While the Blackhawks pulled out a shootout win over the Lightning on the day they honored Brent Seabrook’s retirement, there wasn’t the same kind of magic on the ice for Andrew Shaw’s night. Nevertheless, there should be a game or two next season, with fans in the building, where those guys get properly honored. Throw in Corey Crawford next season too.
• There were positives from last night, but they were buried in the muck. Wyatt Kalynuk continues to look like the real deal and a real steal for the Blackhawks. He scored his fourth goal of the season and is now tied for the lead among defensemen in goals with another player who scored his fourth of the season last night, Duncan Keith. Good on both of them.
• Brandon Hagel also scored last night, notching his eighth goal this season. He has eight goals and 20 points in 45 games this season, which translates to an 82-game pace of 15 goals and 36 points. Not too bad for a rookie.
• Patrick Kane continued his impressive season with a pair of assists last night. He has 12 points in 12 games in the month of April and is still tied for third in the NHL in scoring with 60 points this season.
Patrick Kane (15-45—60 in 49 GP) became the fourth player to reach the 60-point mark this season. His 45 assists are also the second most in the NHL, behind Oilers captain Connor McDavid (53).#NHLStats: https://t.co/hGlQbAhvQa pic.twitter.com/fU61m1kQ5X
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 28, 2021
• Speaking of Edmonton Oilers Captain Connor McDavid, that is definitely not him in this graphic that was on TNT last night, celebrating the NHL’s arrival on the network…
TNT post game show mentioning the nhl tv rights deal and…. is that Andrew Ference? Absolutely insane guy to put in that graphic pic.twitter.com/yI1NNM0Nol
— big heatdaddy (@DanyAllstar15) April 28, 2021
• Not only was this graphic error enormous, but the segment that went along with it was equally cringey.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) April 28, 2021
• I don’t blame Shaq for not knowing much of anything about hockey, just like I know not much of anything about basketball, but this isn’t the introduction that you want to see on TNT for the league. It just perpetuates the niche, small-circle image that the sport of hockey is trying to break out of.
• At least Andrew Ference, the Oilers Captain that was used in the graphic and who has not played in the NHL in five years, had some fun with it.
— Andrew Ference (@Ferknuckle) April 28, 2021
• We’ll end on a happy note (even though he was pulled from the game last night after the first period, yikes). A Happy 26th Birthday to Kevin Lankinen!
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) April 28, 2021
• That’s all today. Enjoy your Wednesday and look on the bright side of life.