Blackhawks

Five Things: Blackhawks persevere, head to another Game 7

Five Things: Blackhawks persevere, head to another Game 7

It’s not over.

After the first period that first sentence was similar, it just didn’t include the “not.” Because at that point, with the Blackhawks trailing the St. Louis Blues 3-1, it certainly looked like this game and this series was over.

But over the next 40 minutes, the Blackhawks showed they had other ideas. And while we shouldn’t be surprised the Blackhawks found a way to force a Game 7, we’re a little stunned nonetheless.

Enough about all of that; there will be plenty of time to talk about Game 7 on Sunday. Right now, let’s get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 6-3 victory over the Blues.

1. Overcoming a two-goal deficit. The Blackhawks were 3-15-1 this season when they trailed after the first period. That’s a surprising stat, given how good the Blackhawks have been over the last few seasons at coming back. So it didn’t look good entering the second period on Saturday night. But five unanswered goals later, the Blackhawks showed that counting them out is a really bad idea, no matter what their usual record when trailing might be.

2. The acquisitions contribute. Andrew Ladd had the opening goal and an assist, Richard Panik helped set up Trevor van Riemsdyk’s tying goal, and Dale Weise had the game-winning goal. One of the biggest questions entering the postseason was if the players acquired at the deadline were going to make a difference. Well, they did in Game 6, and their work is making the Blackhawks look more complete with their lines. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “We had our best game of the series and best four-line rotation of the series. We like the progress.”

3. Andrew Desjardins exhales. Desjardins had an empty net in front of him and a Weise pass heading his way early in the first period. But the shot sailed wide, and the Blues responded by tying the game a few seconds later. That, and the rest of the first period, could have been a deflating moment for Desjardins and the Blackhawks. But the final score had everyone feeling better. Said Desjardins, “I mean, you know, for a second it’s obviously not a great feeling. But ... it’s a long game and you have to try to rebound from that. Just rebound and try to focus on other things.”

4. Andrew Shaw returns with a bang. Shaw went from the top line to start the game to the second line by the second period, but he gave the Blackhawks some much-needed breathing room (a two-goal lead) with his power-play goal late in the third period. Shaw said he’s learned his lesson from his terrible choice of words in Game 4, which cost him Game 5. He stayed much more calm in Game 6 and, more important, stayed out of the penalty box. On his goal he was where he plays best: right in front of the net.

5. And the teams played on. Yeah, we wouldn’t have guessed when the Blackhawks went down 3-1 after Game 4 that there would be a Game 7 between them and the Blues. But that’s where it stands. Who has the edge? The Blues are heading back home, where they’ve won just one game in this series. The Blackhawks are playing their fifth Game 7 in Quenneville’s tenure; they’ve won two of the previous four. So it’ll probably be a typical Game 7: Flip a coin to figure out the winner.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.