With the Blackhawks down to their final two games on the would-be NHL schedule, we decided to wrap up their season by simulating the New York swing in NHL 20. The Hawks finish up with two games in the Empire State; first a matchup with the Islanders followed by a showdown with Artemi Panarin’s Rangers.
These games are must-wins as the Blackhawks fight for a playoff berth. How did we get to this point? Here's the scenario: The Hawks surged through mid-March largely due to a heavy home schedule. Chicago defended home ice with a record of 6-1-1 in their last eight games at the United Center, coupled with a 2-0-1 record in their remaining three road games of the month, good for an 8-1-2 record leading up to the final two games of the season. Getting four of four points in their home-and-home against the Minnesota Wild was crucial.
Despite the late playoff push, the Blackhawks still need all four points in their East Coast visit to potentially earn a wild card spot in a crowded Western Conference. Can they continue their hot streak and vault themselves into the playoffs?
Blackhawks at Islanders (4/2)
Result: Blackhawks win 5-2
1st Star: Dylan Strome (2 G, 1 A, 6 SOG)
2nd Star: Leo Komarov (2 G)
3rd Star: Brandon Saad (2 G, +1)
The Blackhawks’ big men were key to the win in Brooklyn. Strome and Saad both stepped up with multi-goal performances and were vital to the Blackhawks success on the man-advantage. The Hawks will need both to continue to play important roles on special teams if they want to get into the postseason and make a run.
- 11:01: Leo Komarov (B. Nelson, D. Toews) 1-0
- 13:17: Brandon Saad (A. DeBrincat, A. Boqvist) 1-1
- 14:38 PP Brandon Saad (A. Nylander, D. Strome) 2-1
- 9:55 PP Dylan Strome (A. Nylander, D. Keith) 3-1
- 5:05 DeBrincat (J. Toews, K. Dach) 4-1
- 12:04 Leo Komarov (M. Martin, J. Boychuk) 4-2
- 19:20 EN Dylan Strome (A. Nylander, P. Kane) 5-2
Shots on Goal:
- Chicago: 37
- New York: 26
The Blackhawks defense stepped up in a big way limiting the Islanders to just 26 shots on goal. The six Chicago power plays certainly helped swing things in their favor, but limiting shots has been a Blackhawks weakness all season (35.1 shots allowed per game). If Corey Crawford is seeing close to 10 less shots per game than the team average, the Hawks stand a chance against anyone.
- Corey Crawford: 24/26 (.923 SV%)
- Semyon Varlamov: 32/36 (.888 SV%)
Corey Crawford was consistent in net for the Hawks yet again, as he has been since the deadline day trade of Robin Lehner. The first goal was one he might want back, but it was still conceded to an open shooter in the slot. The second was a perfectly placed shot Crawford had very little chance on.
- Chicago: 2-6
- New York: 0-3
Special teams success is key to any postseason run, and for a team like Chicago that has had major struggles on the power play this season, this game was a welcomed sight. A pair of goals on the man-advantage and a perfect penalty kill is a recipe for success.
Notable Blackhawks performances
- Alex Debrincat (Goal, Assist)
- Alex Nylander (3 Assists)
- Kirby Dach (Assist)
- Adam Boqvist (Assist)
The Blackhawks had several young players step up and play big roles in a big situation. Alex Nylander chipped in with 3 assists (2 on the PP). Adam Boqvist notched an assist on the game-tying goal early. Alex DeBrincat set up the go-ahead goal and netted the goal that effectively put the game out of reach, a goal that Kirby Dach assisted on. For the Blackhawks to make a deep playoff run, they’ll need contributions like this from their youth. With their postseason hopes on the line, it’s a positive performance out of the team’s young players hoping to get their first taste of the playoffs.