Blackhawks

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

What we learned about Blackhawks during five-game road trip

"Every game now is a playoff game, pretty much. We've got to approach it like it's life or death."

Those were the words of Drake Caggiula and that was the mindset for the Blackhawks going into their five-game road trip in Western Canada, which was easily their most important swing of the season, given the circumstances. All five teams were ahead of them in the Western Conference standings. The Blackhawks were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and had a chance to prove themselves ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

The Blackhawks finished the trip with a 1-4-0 record, picking up only two out of a possible 10 points. They ended the weekend six points out of the final wild card spot with two games in hand but four teams to jump. It's not impossible to get back in the race but the cards are certainly stacked against them.

So what did we learn about this team?

The easy narrative would be to say the Blackhawks shrunk in games that had playoff implications but that‘s just not true. They simply failed to capitalize on opportunities, which they had plenty of.

In Game 1 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks held a 2-0 lead before allowing a shorthanded goal in the second period that was the first of five unanswered for the Jets, who went on to win 5-2. The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play and were outscored (1-0), outshot (3-2) and out-chanced (4-2) during those three opportunities. That was their downfall.

In Game 2 against Edmonton, the Blackhawks held a pair of one-goal leads — 2-1 in the first period and 3-2 in the second period — but couldn’t close the deal despite the Oilers playing without the NHL's best player, Connor McDavid. Again, a huge missed opportunity.

In Game 3 against Vancouver, the Blackhawks peppered a season-high 49 shots on goal on Jacob Markstrom, 25 of which came from high-danger areas, but couldn't crack the code. It was one of their most dominant performances of the season from start to finish, and they weren't even rewarded for it.

In Game 4 against Calgary, the market quickly corrected itself when the Blackhawks scored a season-high eight goals on 28 shots in an 8-4 win over the Flames. It’s the exact response they were looking for, with all four lines contributing on the scoresheet.

In Game 5 against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks scored the first goal and then fell behind 2-1 before evening things up at 2-2 in the final minute of the second period. The game was up for grabs. But the Jets scored 1:36 into the third period after a shot from the point deflected off Alex DeBrincat’s stick and in; he game-winning goal.

RELATED: Blackhawks look to right the ship before it's too late

Look, there are no moral victories at this time of year. An ugly win beats the heck out of a pretty loss.

If the power play doesn't go 0-for-14, we might be having a different discussion because it had a chance to change the complexion of almost every game (except the last one because there were no penalties called on either side, which was the first time that's happened in an NHL game this season).

But the Blackhawks have no margin for error and they're learning that the hard way.

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Blackhawks re-sign Matthew Highmore, Kevin Lankinen and agree to terms with two prospects

Blackhawks re-sign Matthew Highmore, Kevin Lankinen and agree to terms with two prospects

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

Barratt's deal is for three years that runs 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.

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Hawks Rewind: Blackhawks get off to a good start in San Jose

Hawks Rewind: Blackhawks get off to a good start in San Jose

New day, new Hawks Rewind, new series. Thursday at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago you can re-watch the 2010 Blackhawks inch closer to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years when they take on the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the 2010 Western Conference Final.

The Hawks had just clinched in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Vancouver Canucks in a 5-1 blowout. 

Now, heading into San Jose to open the series, there was even more at stake with the winner going to the big dance for the Cup.

Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp continued their fabulous postseason performances for Chicago.

After trailing 1-0 off a Jason Demers first-period power-play goal, Sharp tied it 1-1 at 7:44 of the second period. Duncan Keith and Troy Brouwer assisted on the goal.

Then, Byfuglien put the Blackhawks ahead at 13:15 of the third period for the 2-1 final score. 

Antti Niemi made 44 saves in his first contest against the Sharks. The Hawks goalie helped Chicago kill four of five power plays including a San Jose 6-on-4 in the final minute.

The victory ended a streak of four straight series-opening losses for the Blackhawks.

Full Hawks Rewind schedule: Here

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