Closing Time, Rookies Galore, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Closing Time, Rookies Galore, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

Cue Semisonic.

Tonight is the final game of the 2021 season for the Chicago Blackhawks as they face the Dallas Stars in game 56 of 56. We made it to the end, folk. While the Blackhawks will not be playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, they are going out in style in front of fans at the United Center for the final time until October rolls around. Last night, the rookies were on display in a 4-2 win over Dallas, which sealed a season series win for Chicago, their third season series win this season.

•   Chicago couldn’t have scripted a better start to a game last night with the fans returning to the United Center.

•   Right out of the gate, the rookies were on full display as MacKenzie Entwistle netted his first NHL goal with an assist from Mike Hardman, who tallies his first NHL assist.

•   You’ll remember a few games ago, Hardman scored his first NHL goal with an assist from Entwistle, which was his first NHL assist. And the world goes ‘round.

•   Entwistle has had quite the 2021 season between the Blackhawks and IceHogs in the AHL, compounded by the fact that he lost ten pounds after having a rough battle with COVID earlier in the season. What a moment for him last night.

•   Injuries and a new commitment to play young players created a mixture where the Blackhawks have been playing an increased amount of rookies this season. It’s been a learning experience for them and for the club, but they have been excelling for the most part in their debut seasons.

•   On Mother’s Day no less, what a gift for Momma Entwistle!

•   Not to be outdone when it came to replies being on display, front-runner for team Rookie of the Year Brandon Hagel netted his ninth goal this season with a little help from the crossbar.

•   The speed in his game, man, you love to see that.

•   Hagel’s ninth of the season and an assist in last night’s game solidified himself as finishing the season fifth in points for the Blackhawks.

•   Hagel is one point behind Pius Suter in fourth-place on the team on scoring, which guarantees that the two rookies will finish the season in the top-five of team scoring. That’s the first time since the 2007-08 season where two rookies have finished in the top-five of team scoring.

•   The two rookies to finish in the top-five in 2007-08: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

•   Not done in the first period, the Blackhawks took a 3-1 league after the red-hot Alex DeBrincat netted his 30th goal of the season, coming on the powerplay.

•   I don’t know about ya’ll, but I was giddy at this point of the game.

•   DeBrincat reaches the 30+goal mark for the second time in his career and he wasn’t done just yet.

•   The insurance goal was DeBrincat’s 31st of the season. He is third in the NHL in goals this season, only trailing Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.

•   His 31 goals in 51 games is a .607 goals per game pace, which translates to 49.7 goals in an 82-game season. So let’s call it 50, a 50-goal pace over a normal season. Incredible.

•   It wasn’t ALL rookies last night, although they had most of the spotlight. DeBrincat tallied two goals and his team-leading counterpart Patrick Kane tallied two assists in the win.

•   With assists 50 and 51 on the season, Kane reaches the 50-assist mark in a season for the seventh time in his career.

•   With 51 assists in 55 games, Kane is on an 82-game pace of 76 assists in a normal season. That would be the fourth-most assists in a season in Blackhawks franchise history.

•   A final note on the action on the ice last night, Kevin Lankinen had the bounce-back performance he needed in his final start of the season. Stopping 37 of 39 shots, he earned his 17th win of the season and finishes his rookie campaign with a 17-14-5 record with a .909 save percentage and a 3.01 GAA. His 17 wins were second among rookie goalies this season and his 37 games started were the most of any rookie goalie.

•   The Blackhawks wouldn’t have been in the playoff race as long as they were if it weren’t for the breakout season Lankinen had. earlier in the year, he was performing at a rate that was getting attention around the league as a possible player who could be considered for the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year. Although his play began to come back down to league-average, he still showed that he can play in the NHL and can be a viable option for the Blackhawks in net moving forward beyond this season.

•   A perfect way for the 26-year-old rookie to go out in front of the United Center fans.

•   It had been 424 days between games at the United Center with fans in the stands. The Blackhawks won both of those games, fittingly.

•   You can’t deny the impact that the home crowd makes for a team. Even when on the road this season, the Blackhawks players were talking about the energy boost they would get just from playing in front of real people and having real fan interaction in the games and not just having to play in front of an empty building with fake crowd noise.

•   Now they’ll have one more chance to cheer on the Blackhawks before the season ends and we look ahead to the beginning of the 2021-22 season in October, hopefully with a larger capacity of fans allowed in the building.

•   Getting the final start of the season in net tonight for the Blackhawks will be Collin Delia. He earned his first win of the season last week against the Carolina Hurricanes, and made 77 of 82 saves in three appearances last week against the Central Division champions. He is 1-3-0 in five appearances with the Blackhawks this season and holds a .903 save percentage and a 3.33 GAA.

•   His future is up in the air with the Blackhawks after starting the season penciled into one of the top-two spots in the goalie rotation and then falling out of favor behind Lankinen and Malcolm Subban. All three goalies are under contract for the 2021-22 season, with Delia having the highest cap hit at just $1M. His final start of the season could be a measuring stick for his future with the Blackhawks or elsewhere in the league for next season.

•   That’ll do it for today. Have yourselves a good Monday and we will see you one final time tonight for Blackhawks and Stars at the United Center at 7:00 p.m.!

Author: Mario Tirabassi

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