Considering the Incredible Butterfly Effect of One Blackhawks Win in April
For a moment, let’s take a walk back to the beginning of April. The Blackhawks were struggling to win games and score goals after the trade deadline and the sprint to the bottom of the standings was close. Anaheim, Columbus and Chicago were trading days in the cellar, and every win led fans of their respective team to lose their collective minds.
On April 11, with Jonathan Toews back in the lineup, Chicago flew to Pittsburgh for their final road game of the regular season. The Blackhawks lost to the Minnesota Wild on home ice the night before, giving them four losses in five starts in April. The Penguins were playing for their playoff lives, trying to extend their postseason streak. Chicago owned the best odds of winning the draft lottery at the time.
But, as was the case so many times throughout this past season, the depleted roster didn’t care about what a win meant to their draft lottery position. And they had the opportunity to knock the Penguins out of the playoffs. Don’t think for a second that didn’t mean something to 19.
With the game tied at one in the middle of the third period, Buddy Robinson scored to give Chicago a 2-1 lead. Then Andreas Athanasiou scored what held up as the game-winner 26 seconds later.
The Blackhawks skated away that night with a 5-2 win, and the comments after the game were almost exclusively along the lines of “what the $#!+ are they doing?”
And that was justified — at the time. Columbus lost in overtime that night, which gave the Blackhawks some level of security in having the worst record in the league. But the two points Chicago picked up that night, combined with their regulation win number, pushed the Blackhawks to third in the draft lottery.
Fast forward to last night…
We all watched the Florida Panthers win the Eastern Conference title last night. Their playoff odds were on life support before the Blackhawks arrived in Pittsburgh; they were on the outside looking in.
If the Blackhawks lost that game in regulation, the Penguins were in Boston to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs and not the Panthers.
If the Blackhawks lost that game in regulation, the Montreal Canadiens’ would have had a second pick in the lottery (it would have been No. 15) with the Panthers out of the playoffs.
If the Blackhawks lost that game in regulation, and the lottery balls still awarded Connor Bedard to the team with the third-best odds, it would not have been in Chicago.
But the Blackhawks won that game. In regulation.
Since then, the Penguins have fired their entire front office, including their president of hockey operations. The Blackhawks won the draft lottery. And the Panthers are now in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996 — 18 months before Matthew Tkachuk was born.