After back-to-back losses this weekend in California, the Chicago Blackhawks are eight points back of a playoff spot with 16 games remaining in the regular season. The playoff hope that once surrounded the team has disappeared, and the defensive struggles continue to be too much for the Blackhawks high scoring offense to overcome.
Season's (basically) over for Blackhawks now. 8 points out of a wild-card spot with only 16 games remaining.
I said before the trip they needed 5 or 6 points, and they got 2. Time to start looking at the future.
— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) March 4, 2019
While the Blackhawks usually come away with victories against subpar teams, that was not the case Saturday afternoon against the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings offense, which is one of the worst in the league, managed to put up six goals on the Blackhawks dreadful defense. Their 26th ranked powerplay went 2/2 on the afternoon as well. It was an embarrassing effort put forth against the worst team in the Western Conference. The playoffs were a bit of a long shot heading into the weekend, but a 6-3 loss to the LA Kings put a dagger in the Blackhawks playoff hopes.
You can kiss the playoffs goodbye. Can't lose to a team like this.
Kings 6, Blackhawks 3
— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) March 2, 2019
Sunday night was a chance for redemption against a San Jose Sharks team that was without Erik Karlsson and Evander Kane. Kane, of course, was involved in the hit that lead to Corey Crawford’s latest concussion the last time these two teams met. The Blackhawks managed to hang around through the first 40 minutes, but they fell apart in the 3rd period to lose the game 5-2. The Sharks offense proved to be too strong and the Blackhawks wound up with another loss against a playoff-caliber team.
Blackhawks Need To Be Efficient In Final 16 Games
This past weekend proved that the Blackhawks weak defense and frightful penalty kill are too large of weaknesses for this team to be successful. Patrick Kane and the red-hot offense could only carry this team so far, and the defensive flaws inevitably became too much to overcome. While the hope for the playoffs may be lost, the final 16 games of the season still hold a large significance.
The Blackhawks are killing 72.6% of their penalties this season.
No team has been that bad since Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles in 1985-86.
— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) March 2, 2019
The Blackhawks have established strong pieces of their top six with the emergence of Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome, but the bottom six forwards and defensive depth are still a mystery for this team. This is a great time for Stan Bowman and Jeremy Colliton to evaluate the rest of the roster to try and fix the Blackhawks glaring holes. Until these problems are solved, the Blackhawks will remain on the outside of playoff contention.
The Blackhawks have a plethora of pending RFA’s that are still question marks at this point in their career. Players like Brendan Perlini, Dylan Sikura, Slater Koekkoek, and Carl Dahlstrom all are bubble players for the future of the Chicago Blackhawks. Some tough decisions will have to be made in deciding what to offer those players this offseason. The best way to know what to offer is by consistently playing these guys in significant roles during the final 16 games. While it may not result in wins, it will help the front office gain further knowledge of these players’ skillsets.
There are also a couple of pending RFA’s currently playing in the AHL for the Rockford IceHogs. Victor Ejdsell, Anthony Louis, and Luke Johnson are three guys who could use a call-up before the end of the season. It would be nice to see one of these young players in the lineup instead of Chris Kunitz.
Be Thankful For The Blackhawks Competitive Season
The 2018-19 campaign may not be coming to the end that most fans were hoping for, but there are a lot of reasons to be happy with the year the Chicago Blackhawks had. Not too long ago, the ‘Hawks won three times in about two months, spanning 22 games. At that moment a playoff push was a mere afterthought, as the team was just focusing on trying to win a game. The Blackhawks have come a long way since the turn of the calendar year.
The addition of Dylan Strome late in November continues to look better with every game he plays, and he’s really solidified himself in a top-six role. The Chicago Blackhawks (and their fans) feel A LOT better having Dylan Strome instead of Nick Schmaltz heading into the offseason.
Just a reminder that Dylan Strome has 40 points in 42 games as a member of the @NHLBlackhawks 🙏🔥
— Talkin’ Hawkey (@TalkHawkey) March 4, 2019
Jonathan Toews is finally having the bounce-back season the Blackhawks have been waiting over three seasons for. Toews looks dominant once again in the offensive zone and currently has 67 points in 66 games. He has recorded 70 points just once in his career, which was way back in 2010-11. Toews is on pace for his best offensive year in his first season as a 30-year-old.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews needs just 11 points to break his career high of 76. The 30-year-old center might be having the best season of his career. https://t.co/pQwQLsxxVX
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) March 2, 2019
The defense may be a question mark at the moment, but the Blackhawks have plenty of young defensive prospects in the system. In the next two seasons Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, and Ian Mitchell should all make their Blackhawk debuts, giving the team some much-needed youth and skill. The defense will not be the worst in the league for much longer.
Hope For The Future
Overall, there is a lot to build on from this season. The Blackhawks have established some strong pieces to the puzzle in Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. They have plenty of young defensive prospects, and also appear to have their goaltender of the future in Collin Delia signed long term. Oh, and there’s that Patrick Kane guy who’s pretty good as well. The 2018-19 season was necessary for the “rebuild” of the Chicago Blackhawks. Stan Bowman managed to make up for his poor offseason by making a couple of fantastic moves during the course of the season. Hopefully, Stan Bowman continues to make these types of moves during free agency to give the Blackhawks some help for the future.
The Blackhawks have come a long way from where they were just three short months ago. They managed to go from dead last place to the middle of a playoff race in the Western Conference. The power play has also made significant progress and is currently ranked 10th in the league (they were ranked 31st on December 19th). If the Blackhawks continue to make progress like they did this season, the future will be bright for this young team in Chicago.