Blackhawks

Time is running out for Blackhawks to make final case before trade deadline

Time is running out for Blackhawks to make final case before trade deadline

Before the Blackhawks left home to embark on a crucial five-game road trip in Western Canada, general manager Stan Bowman told NBC Sports Chicago that the organization is going to take as much time as possible before deciding what to do at the trade deadline.

At that point, it was two and a half weeks out from the Feb. 24 deadline and the Blackhawks were making a surge. They were 12-5-2 in their last 19 games and had picked up at least a point in eight of their last nine to pull within legitimate reach of a playoff spot.

But after dropping their third straight game in regulation and fifth overall (0-3-2) on Wednesday in Vancouver, the Blackhawks are watching their playoff hopes quickly dissolve. The road trip isn’t over yet, but coming up empty against three teams ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings is giving Bowman and the management group a clearer picture of where things stand.

RELATED: Blackhawks' playoff chances take a hit in loss to Canucks

They will have a much better idea on the state of the team by the end of the weekend, but signs are pointing towards the Blackhawks being sellers rather than riding out the current roster, which appeared to be the more likely scenario less than a week ago. They have no choice, especially if the Blackhawks fail to finish the trip on a positive note.

The Blackhawks will wake up Thursday morning six points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference with a game in hand. By the time they play their next game on Saturday in Calgary, only nine days will be left until the deadline. Time is ticking.

It’s unfortunate that the Blackhawks are in this position because it didn’t have to be this way.

They held a 2-0 lead in Winnipeg on Sunday but gave up a shorthanded goal in the second period, which completely changed the game and allowed the Jets to finish with five unanswered goals. They held a pair of one-goal leads against the Connor McDavid-less Oilers on Tuesday but couldn’t seal the deal.


Then on Wednesday, the Blackhawks turned in arguably their most complete 60-minute effort of the season with a season-high 49 shots on goal and giving up a season-low 20 shots. But they went 0-for-5 on the power play and ran into a ridiculously hot goaltender in Jacob Markstrom, who saved his team 3.66 goals relative to a league average goaltender, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Three winnable games. Zero points. A real gut punch during their most significant stretch of the season.

The Blackhawks aren’t losing hope. At least, not publicly.

But time is running out to make a final case on keeping this group together for a playoff push. If a case hasn't been made already, that is.

"Got no other choice," Jonathan Toews told reporters following a 3-0 loss to the Canucks. "You can sit around and sulk about it for 20 minutes, and then you've got to make a decision on how you want to react and get ready for the next one. So that's all we can do right now."

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2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

Despite opening the Western Conference Final on the road, the Blackhawks overcame an early deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in Game 1 at HP Pavillon. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. An epic goaltending battle

The Blackhawks and Sharks ranked third and fourth, respectively, in goals per game going into the playoffs, so it wasn't a surprise to see two of the NHL's best offensive teams reach the Final Four.

The offensive firepower was on full display in Game 1, with the two teams combining for 85 shots on goal, 68 scoring chances and 22 high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. But it was the goaltending that stole the show.

Antti Niemi made a career-high 44 saves on 45 shots for a save percentage of .978. He also stopped all 13 high-danger chances. His counterpart Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 38 of 40 shots, including all nine high-danger chances, for a save percentage of .950. 

2. Escaping the special teams nightmare

The Blackhawks made Game 1 very difficult on themselves in the special teams department. They committed five minor penalties compared to the Sharks' zero, which is as lopsided a ratio as you'll ever see in the playoffs.

The Sharks capitalized on one of those five chances but credit the Blackhawks for hanging in on the other four. They played a full 60 minutes without a single man advantage and made sure it wasn't the reason they lost the game.

3. The legend of Dustin Byfuglien grows

You are going to see a lot of Byfuglien in this series, and he didn't waste any time.

In a 1-1 tie, a wide-open Big Buff pounded his stick on the ice, received a pass from Patrick Kane in the high slot and buried a slap shot past Nabokov with 6:45 left in regulation and it turned out to be the game-winner.

Byfuglien scored a goal in all four games and was credited with the game-winner in three of them. Game 1 was just the start.

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Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

The Blackhawks announced on Thursday that they have re-signed pending restricted free agent forward Matthew Highmore and goaltender Kevin Lankinen, and agreed to terms with forward prospects Evan Barratt and Andrei Altybarmakyan on entry-level contracts.

Highmore's deal runs for two years through the 2021-22 season and carries a $725,000 average annual value (AAV). Lankinen's deal is also for two years and runs through the 2021-22 campaign, and carries a $800,000 AAV.

Barratt's deal runs for three years through the 2022-23 season and carries an $870,000 AAV, while Altybarmakyan's is a two-year deal that runs through the 2021-22 campaign and carries a $817,500 AAV.

Highmore has six points (two goals, four assists) in 36 games with the Blackhawks this season and registered 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 21 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Lankinen went 8-10-2 with a 3.03 goals against average and .909 save percentage for Rockford before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on March 2.

Barratt, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the third round (No. 90 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, is the most notable signing. He registered a team-high 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in 34 games during his junior season at Penn State, and was also a Hobey Baker nominee in 2019 after setting career-highs in goals (16), assists (27) and points (43) as a sophomore.

Altybarmakyan was also taken in the third round (No. 70 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He registered career highs in goals (six), assists (11) and points (17) in 49 games this season for HK Sochi of the Kontinental Hockey League, and appeared in three games for HK Tambov of the VHL.

With the re-signing of Highmore and Lankinen, the Blackhawks now have nine pending restricted free agents, which most notably includes Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.