Why Tampa's Implosion Last Night is Important to the Blackhawks

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Why Tampa’s Implosion Last Night is Important to the Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks, NHL

On Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a chance to tie their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. And it certainly looked like they were on their way to a second win in the series; Tampa took a 4-1 lead into the final 11 minutes of regulation.

But then Auston Matthews scored at 9:44. And then he scored again, this time on the power play, at at 12:29. When Morgan Reilly tied the game at 16:04, there was a palpable feeling of disbelief in the rink in Tampa that you could feel through a television screen.

The only thing missing was the cherry on top of the sundae the Leafs had built, and that came from Alex Kerfoot at 4:14 into overtime. Toronto completely erased a three-goal deficit and authored an epic road victory.

Toronto has had their fair share of collapses in playoff series in the past, but last night’s win really feels like it put this series in jeopardy for Tampa.

Which could be great news for the Blackhawks.

Remember, I broke it down before the playoffs began. Chicago owns a number of draft picks that were acquired from current playoff teams via trade. More specifically, the Blackhawks own Tampa’s first and second-round picks in the 2023 NHL Draft.

Chicago acquired Tampa’s first-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft in the trade that sent Brandon Hagel to the Bolts last season. They acquired Tampa’s second-round pick in the deal that also brought forward Tyler Johnson to Chicago for Brent Seabrook’s contract (read: LTIR cap relief).

Tampa finished the 2022-23 regular season with 98 points and in third place in the Atlantic Division. That represents the worst point total among all of the second and third place teams this season. Which means, when the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs ends and the next eight team positions are locked into the draft order, at least three losers — the losers of the other 2-3 matchups — will rank behind the Lightning.

And Colorado, the defending champs and winners of the Central Division crown this season, is locked in a 2-2 tie in their series with Seattle.

A Tampa loss in the first round of the playoffs would mean the Blackhawks’ second pick in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft — a draft that has been touted as being historically good and deep — would be around the 20-21 range. Which is awesome. It also means, with Chicago also owning Ottawa’s pick in the second round, that the Blackhawks could five of the top 54 overall selections in this draft.

As the new front office looks to accelerate the rebuild, adding skill in bulk is clearly the path they’re taking. And the earlier Tampa loses in the playoffs, the better for the Blackhawks’ draft stock.

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