Blackhawks

Never say never: Blackhawks won't stop believing until math says they're out

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USA TODAY

Never say never: Blackhawks won't stop believing until math says they're out

The calendar has flipped to April, which means we've reached the final week of NHL regular season. Time is running out for bubble teams to make a run and get in. But at this point those clubs need help, too.

The Blackhawks are six points out of the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference with four games remaining. Their odds are down to 0.4 percent, according to hockeyreference.com, and they could mathematically be eliminated from contention by the end of Monday night with a loss and Colorado win.

But until the math says they're out, the Blackhawks will never say never — even if they internally have maybe allowed themselves to think otherwise.

"We’ll take it day-by-day," Patrick Kane said. "We’ve kept things pretty positive for a while here, to be honest with you, and I think we’ve been one of the better teams in the latter half of the year in the league. It’s never fun to be in this position, but obviously there’s a lot to play for tonight to keep our season alive and keep these meaningful games going for us. That’s the position we’re in.”

At the same time, it's hard not to look back at the schedule and point to some stretches and wonder "what if?" 

"At first when you think about it, it's probably easy to say those two eight-game losing streaks really hurt us," Kane said "You do that and you're giving up a fifth of the season where you're not getting any points or winning any games, so that was a tough stretch for us. It seemed like things just snowballed there for a while after the coaching change, and I know Jeremy [Colliton] was implementing the way he wanted to play but we kind of struggled right out of the gate. Once we figured it out we were a lot better. I think right after that it was the toughest part of the year for us."

The Blackhawks, at the very least, have a chance to play spoiler against the Winnipeg Jets, who are fighting for the top seed in the Central Division. But they want to start being on the other end of these meaningful games. And while they still (barely) have a chance, it's important to finish strong and on a positive note.

"We’re playing at home, we’ve got a lot of pride, it’s a big game for Winnipeg," Colliton said. "We technically are still in it. So let’s do our part. Have a great effort. Bring our best game. That’s kind of been what we’ve been saying for a while and that’s all we can do. We want to feel good about ourselves, we want to come to the rink and be happy in the morning. So you’ve got to perform."

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Jeremy Colliton on Blackhawks offseason additions and how he plans to handle Crawford-Lehner workload

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USA TODAY

Jeremy Colliton on Blackhawks offseason additions and how he plans to handle Crawford-Lehner workload

It's mid-July and the Blackhawks' roster looks very different from when it ended the 2018-19 season. GM Stan Bowman has added an influx of new faces this summer, whether that's been in the form of trades or free-agent signings.

Now it's up to Jeremy Colliton and his coaching staff to decide how they want to map out the lineup. They might have an idea of how they want to utilize specific players, but the real competition starts in training camp and that's exactly what the organization wants.

"Yeah, we’ve done a lot," Colliton said before Wednesday's on-ice session at development camp. "We’ve really increased the depth in our group, everywhere. In goal, on defense, up front, we have competition throughout the roster for roster spots, for roles. I think we have more versatility to our team, we have defenders who can play either side, we have guys who want to kill penalties and defend and take that role, we have forwards who can play different positions, kill penalties, play against good players. So we feel that’s what we were missing to our team."

"We’ve added a little bit of physicality and an edge, which we need to have that dimension. We have to win games in different ways, and I think if you compare the roster now to the one we ended with or the one we had when I first came in November, I think we can win in different ways and we’re prepared to have an excellent season, hopefully."

One of the main storylines to follow during the 2019-20 season will be how the goaltending workload is divided between Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner. You have a two-time Stanley Cup winner and Vezina Trophy finalist to share the starts with, and Colliton expects it to be a healthy battle among the two veteran netminders.

"There's going to be competition, certainly," Colliton said. "But I think you look at the teams that have had success, there has been a share — some sort of split. It's not 60, 70 games one guy's taking. Those games that maybe traditionally the backup is playing, we need to win those too. So now whoever is in the net, we're going to get an extremely high level of performance. And if we happen to be unlucky with injuries, we have some protection there too."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reaction to Artem Anisimov trade and development camp standouts

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Reaction to Artem Anisimov trade and development camp standouts

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis react to the trade of Artem Anisimov to the Senators for Zack Smith. The guys discuss the role Smith could have with the Hawks and the areas where he has an edge over Anisimov.

They also discuss the first couple days of Development Camp and how this year’s top two draft picks — Kirby Dach and Alex Vlasic — have looked so far. Plus, a breakdown of the other top blue-liners and how Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin and Chad Krys have progressed and why they agree with Ian Mitchell’s decision to return to Denver for his junior year.

0:35 – Initial reaction to Anisimov/Smith trade

2:02 – Smith adds faceoff and penalty kill abilities

3:38 – Candidates for bottom-six center spots

4:57 – Edge a common theme among new Blackhawks

6:08 – Alex Nylander’s presence at Development Camp

8:20 – Kirby Dach has an open door to a roster spot

10:38 – Alex Vlasic holding his own against Dach

11:46 – Adam Boqvist wants to play in the NHL now

13:23 – Were Blackhawks recent moves scripted before NHL Draft?

15:28 – Ian Mitchell’s decision to return to college

18:57 – Young defenseman make decisions tough down the road

20:21 – Keeping an eye on Philipp Kurashev at camp

21:20 – Is Stan Bowman done making moves?

22:34 – Salary cap outlook with DeBrincat/Strome extensions coming

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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