Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night:
1. First period sums up the game.
The Blackhawks had scored the first goal in each of their previous four games going into Saturday yet weren't able to pick up a win in any of them. Maybe if they allowed the first one their luck would change playing from behind, right?
The Blackhawks gave up the first goal just 1:58 into the opening frame when Charlie Coyle banked a shot off Jeff Glass from behind the net to put Minnesota up 1-0. They had a prime opportunity to get it back after being handed a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play with Marcus Foligno (roughing) and Mike Reilly (cross-checking) each being penalized on the same play, but they couldn't capitalize.
Shortly after, the Wild made it 2-0 when Matt Dumba's shot from the point deflected off of Duncan Keith's leg and tipped-in by Mikko Koivu on the power play and the rest is history. That just about summed up the game.
2. Blackhawks can't solve Devan Dubnyk.
Well, this bullet point can apply to all season.
Dubnyk was on his A-game yet again, turning aside all 44 shots the Blackhawks threw at him for his fourth shutout of the season and most saves he's had in a whitewash.
In four starts against the Blackhawks this season, Dubnyk has stopped 147 of 151 shots for a .974 save percentage. He was lights out, and he's the main reason why the Blackhawks lost three of those four games against their Central Division foes.
The Blackhawks fell 10 points of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference and have seen their playoff chances drop to a season-low 2.4 percent, according to sportsclubstats.com.
3. Brandon Saad's struggles continue.
It's now been 14 games since Saad has lit the lamp, the longest goal drought of his NHL career in a single season. In fact, he before he registered a late third-period shot on goal, he hadn't recorded one in the last nine periods.
His first four shot attempts each got blocked and he, again, had positive 5-on-5 possession numbers but you can't break out of a scoring slump if you don't shoot. And that's an area where they need him to contribute.
4. Stan Bowman addresses direction of franchise.
On Thursday the Blackhawks general manager joined the Pregame Live crew on NBC Sports Chicago to discuss the team's plans going into the Feb. 26 trade deadline. He admitted that "I don't expect us to be a buyer this year," which was to be expected.
Bowman also met with the media before the game on Saturday to expand on a number of subjects, and one thing stood out in particular when discussing the offseason trades and the direction going forward:
"Some of the changes we made we had to make for the long-term success of our team, to be able to have a team that, looking at our team a year ago, we were an older team," Bowman said, via The Athletic's Scott Powers. "I didn’t want to be a part of a group that was just trying to hang on to the past. We’re trying, in the process of competing for the Cup also, rebuild this group so that we can be positioned for many years to come with younger players."
This is the first time we've heard Bowman use the word "rebuild" of some sort, even though this season has always felt like one on the fly. And it's the right move. Rather than sacrificing prospects and/or draft picks to load up for one or two more cracks at a Stanley Cup, Bowman has made it clear he wants to continue developing his younger players and adapt to a league that's transitioned to younger, faster and more skilled skaters.
The short-term goal hasn't changed. Enough of the Blackhawks' core players are around their prime where they will remain in the playoff hunt while they use this season to reload for the long run. But it's encouraging to hear Bowman say as such, and should at least gives Blackhawks fans something to look forward to for years to come, not just the short term.
5. Corey Crawford to join Blackhawks in Arizona.
The Blackhawks' playoff chances may be very slim after losing their fifth game in a row, but they're still not completely out of it and they may be getting an important reinforcement very soon.
Joel Quenneville said Crawford, who has been out since Dec. 23 with an upper-body injury, will join the team in Arizona on Monday and skate with his teammates. Crawford isn't expected to play on this road trip, but he could return to game action either next week or shortly after that.
The question is, where will the Blackhawks be in the standings once he does return and is a playoff push even remotely realistic? Regardless, it will surely be nice to see No. 50 back between the pipes for a Blackhawks team that could use any boost at this point.