Three Team Battle for Bedard, Oh-For-Frozen Four, the Kurashav Conundrum, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Three Team Battle for Bedard, Oh-For-Frozen Four, the Kurashav Conundrum, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

The Bad for Bedard Race is really three teams now: the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Ducks. With a four-point gap between those three and the Sharks — who are seven points clear of Arizona — it appears we have a staring contest to see if any of the three at the bottom want/are able to pick up a single point between now and the end of the regular season. If the season ends as-is, Anaheim will have the best lottery odds by virtue of having the fewest regulation wins (13). Columbus has 15 and Chicago has 17.

  • There are zero (0) NHL games on the calendar on Good Friday. HOWEVER, if you’re looking for some hockey, do I have a schedule for you! On Saturday (tomorrow), for the first time in NHL history (first time), there are 16 games scheduled. Sixteen! AND the NCAA championship game is at 7 PM CT tomorrow night, too! What a time to be alive!
  • In the first game of the Frozen Four on Thursday evening, Minnesota looked every bit of the No. 1 team in the country. They put pressure on Boston University all night, forcing them to take penalties and poor Drew Commesso did everything he could in net to keep his team in the game. When the dust settled, BU lost and now our attention turns to when the Blackhawks sign Commesso.
  • With Commesso and Ryan Greene eliminated with BU, the Blackhawks still had one chance of having a prospect advancing to the championship game. Frank Nazar and Michigan took their high powered offense into the nightcap against Quinnipiac, the best defensive team in the nation this season. What wins championships? Defense. And that was the reality in the late game. The Wolverines were the faster and more skilled team, but the veterans on Quinnipiac played a really good, structured game and took advantage of their opportunities. With the Michigan loss, the Blackhawks will not have a prospect in Saturday night’s NCAA championship game. It will still be worth watching, however. Good hockey always is.
  • The Michigan loss also means we may have seen the final appearance of center Adam Fantilli in a collegiate game. Considered by many to be the No. 2 prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft, Fantilli had a stunningly dominant first college season at Michigan, putting up numbers that will be talked about for a long time. His goal last night was a legit snipe that left no doubt. If the Blackhawks wind up with the second pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, the choice between Fantilli and center Leo Carlsson will be an interesting one. But Fantilli did everything he needed to in making the case to be the second name called in June.
  • Ben Pope asked an important question heading into the coming summer for the Blackhawks: what is Philipp Kurashev‘s future? Before the season began, I picked Kurashev to lead the team in scoring based on the flashes of ability we’ve seen in his first couple NHL seasons and the likely departures from the roster around him. I was wrong, and his point and goal totals not advancing each year is indeed troubling if he wants to be a top-six forward.
  • When the regular season began and the Blackhawks were playing well in October, head coach Luke Richardson had Kurashev on the third line with Sam Lafferty and Jason Dickinson. And that line was probably the Blackhawks’ best and most effective. They were fast and tough to play against in all zones. As Kurashev has moved up the lineup because of trades and injuries, the point production never increased with the role.
  • As Pope recalls, Kurashev had points in six of his first nine games this season. But the well went dry eventually. With his season over because of a shoulder injury, he produced nine goals and 16 assists in 70 games. That looks and feels like a fourth-line player. But, playing on just a qualifying offer this season, many — including me — expected more. So it will be very interesting to see how the Blackhawks value Kurashev as he goes back into restricted free agency this summer. From Pope:

During five-on-five play, Kurashev has been virtually the exact same player all three years. His points rate (per 60 minutes) has gone from 1.09 to 1.20 to 1.18. His shot rate has increased slightly year over year from 8.3 to 10.0 to 10.2, but his scoring-chance rate has slightly decreased from 6.2 to 5.8 to 5.7.

  • Finally, thanks to everyone who rolled out to HVAC Pub last night for the first of what will hopefully be many Bleacher Nation events. I was sadly unable to be there physically, but it was an enormous success. I’ll consult with the powers that be about getting some puck talk on tap for the next event. Promise!

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab