Blackhawks

How Blackhawks are impacted by NHL counting play-in results as playoff stats

How Blackhawks are impacted by NHL counting play-in results as playoff stats

When the NHL announced its new 24-team playoff format, it also declared the regular season completed. That means that the 189 games remaining on the regular season calendar will not be played, and all regular season statistics are final.

The league also announced that the qualifying round and round robin games are not technically playoff games, creating a kind of limbo between the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

A lot of questions have been raised about the stats in these purgatorial games for record-keeping purposes. It seems we now have an answer:

 

The NHL announced the Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Jennings Trophy winners on Thursday, officially marking the end of regular season stat-keeping. So while the play-in and round robin games will not officially count as playoff games, any points, saves or other statistics accrued will officially count as playoff stats for players. 

What does this all mean for the Blackhawks? A few things.

For one, it means that Jonathan Toews’ streak of consecutive seasons with 20 or more goals is now over at 12, as he finishes the 2019-20 campaign with a career-low 18 goals. 

Entering this season, the only three players who had scored 20 or more goals in each of the last 12 seasons were Toews, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin. Kane (13 seasons) and Ovechkin (15), who extended their streaks in 2019-20, are now the only two remaining on the list. 

It also means that Kane’s 84 points in 70 games gives him a point-per-game total of 1.20 for the season, the third best in his illustrious career. Kane finished with five goals in the final five games of the regular season, surpassing the 30-goal plateau for the fifth time in his career. That ties Jeremy Roenick for the sixth most in Blackhawks franchise history. 

It means that Dominik Kubalik’s late Calder Trophy push comes to an early end, as well. He finishes his rookie season with 30 goals, tied with Artemi Panarin and Eric Daze for the third most by a Blackhawks rookie in franchise history. 

It means that Alex DeBrincat will not reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his young NHL career. After his 28-goal rookie season, DeBrincat followed up with 41 goals in 2018-19. But a 10% drop in his shooting percentage this season left him with just 18 — with a fresh three-year extension kicking in next season. 

The good news? While the Blackhawks’ play-in contests against the Edmonton Oilers won’t officially count as playoff games, youngsters like DeBrincat, Kubalik, Kirby Dach and others will get a crack at accumulating playoff points for the first time in their career. 

And for legends like Kane and Toews, it’s an opportunity to climb the all-time leaderboards.

Kane’s 123 playoff points ranks fourth in Blackhawks franchise history — six behind third-ranked Bobby Hull. Three more points also propels Kane into the top-50 all-time in NHL playoff points. Toews’ 110 points ranks sixth in Blackhawks franchise history, just a single point shy of Steve Larmer in fifth. 

One stat that might remain in limbo? Playoff wins by a goaltender.

Corey Crawford already owns the Blackhawks franchise record with 48 playoff wins, which ranks 22nd all-time in NHL history. However, if he’s able to lead the Blackhawks to three wins and an upset of the Oilers in the best-of-five qualifying round, will those count towards his playoff win total? That remains to be seen. Only 19 goalies in league history have ever amassed 50 or more playoff wins.

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Blackhawks restructure hockey operations department, remove eight from roles

Blackhawks restructure hockey operations department, remove eight from roles

The Blackhawks restructured their hockey operations department by changing the titles of nine staff members and removing eight others from their respective roles, according to the team's website. The Athletic's Scott Powers first pointed out the news.

Most notably, Norm Maciver was demoted from assistant general manager to vice president of player personnel. He had been in the assistant GM role for eight seasons and previously served as the director of player personnel for one and director of player development for three.

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The Blackhawks also made five promotions: Kyle Davidson's title went from assistant to the GM to assistant GM of hockey administration, Mark Eaton went from director of player development to assistant GM of player development, Ryan Stewart went from vice president of pro scouting to assistant GM of pro scouting, Mike Doneghey went from head USA scout to director of player evaluation and recruitment and Rob Facca went from amateur scout to head USA scout.

In addition, it appears three others were moved into part-times roles: Barry Smith, who previously served as the director of player evaluation, and Pierre Gauthier, who previously served as the director of player personnel, are now senior advisors of player personnel while Ron Anderson, who previously served as the director of player recruitment, is now the senior advisor of player recruitment.

The nine members who were removed from the team's website included pro scouts Derek Booth, Greg Hawgood, Steve Leach, Michael Mottau, Allan Power and Tom Younghans, player development coach Derek Plante and Rockford IceHogs/European strength and conditioning coach Kristian Skarphagen.

How will long layoff affect goalies in NHL's 24-team postseason?

How will long layoff affect goalies in NHL's 24-team postseason?

Goalies are creatures of habit. Their daily routines are more sacred than those of the players at other positions. They prepare more extensively and they have to be the most dialed-in on the ice. 

Throw in a global pandemic that's greatly diminished their reps and thrown off their rhythm ahead of the NHL's 24-team playoff format set to begin August 1 and what happens?

NHL Network analyst and former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes is here to tell us.

"As a goalie, the challenge of that is it's such a feel-intuitive sport and it's almost like golf: you have to play and play often, even your practice rounds, just to be able to have your touch, your timing, your reads, your spacing, your positioning, your instincts, all those things," Weekes told NBC Sports Chicago over the phone on Wednesday. 

"So the challenge with being a tender is when that's limited or when that's compromised, it certainly impacts you. But right now, I think for those guys, pending their bodies and what they can handle, I think at least one way to counteract that is see as many pucks as possible right now."

The league's netminders will at least have the opportunity to see pucks for two weeks with their team starting on Monday when formal training camps leading up to the postseason at hub cities Edmonton and Toronto begin.

Weekes — who tended goal in the show for 11 years and helped lead the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Final in 2002 — says a number of goalies, depending on where they've been on the grid, have been able to keep some of their skills sharp during the NHL pause that began on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He mentioned goalies like Henrik Lundqvist, who went back home to Europe, have been able to skate almost the entire duration of the pause.

"Then, there are other guys who, let's say are in Florida, I know (Sergei) Bobrovsky started skating a while back, Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa has been skating for quite some time," Weekes added. "So, depending on where you're situated, where you're located geographically, that kind of had a big impact on whether or not you were able to get to a rink."

But what about goalies who weren't able to get on the ice or see shots?

According to Kevin, they've had to come up with ways to stay fresh and ready at home beyond throwing a tennis ball against the wall like you see them do in the tunnel before games.

A lot of goalies had already upgraded from ball-on-the-wall to tennis ball machine prior to the pause. Others have been doing online vision training and vision exercises according to Weekes

"It's literally been all over the map," he said. "Some guys have been able to play tennis and feel like that's helped them with their footwork and their conditioning and just tracking, having something directed at them. 

"So it's literally been all over the map for different guys that I've spoken with but nothing can fully simulate it, guys are just trying to do the best that they could. What was challenging for some guys is some guys were stuck in situations where that's all that they had available to them and then they go on Instagram and for example see Henrik skating, which he should be, which is awesome."

Come the start of the tournament, it may be obvious who was able to keep their last line of defense weapons sharp. You can only cram so much into two weeks.

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