With little to play for, Blackhawks fall to Bruins in regular season home finale

With little to play for, Blackhawks fall to Bruins in regular season home finale

The Blackhawks didn't have much on the line heading into Sunday's game.

They were already deemed best in the West on Saturday, when the Nashville Predators beat the Minnesota Wild. They'll have home ice throughout the conference playoffs. And while the Blackhawks almost pulled it out in the final 20 minutes, the visiting Boston Bruins, with more on the line, came away with this one. 

Artemi Panarin scored his 29th goal of the season but Kevan Millar's third of the season proved to be the game winner as the Bruins beat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Sunday. The Blackhawks wrapped up their regular-season home schedule with a push in the third period but Anton Khudobin was stellar throughout to keep them from pulling off the comeback.

So did the Blackhawks, with nothing on the line entering this one, have a tough time getting motivated for it?

"Tough to forecast," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Early game for both teams, and important game for them. For us, we wanted to make sure we played the right way. We didn't give up a ton and got better as the game went on."

No doubt, the Blackhawks saved their best for the final 20 minutes. After Millar gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead midway through the third Jordin Tootoo scored his second of the season just 25 seconds later to cut the Blackhawks' deficit to 3-2.

"We talked about all three of us going to the net, not being too pretty and getting some rebounds, some quick shots," said John Hayden, who had the primary assist on Tootoo's goal. "Fortunately that one worked out."

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But Khudobin wouldn't allow anything more, stopping 15 of the Blackhawks' 16 third-period shots. He stopped 41 of 43 for the game.  

The Bruins took advantage of the Blackhawks' semi-sluggishness, staking themselves to a 2-0 lead (Ryan Spooner and Patrice Bergeron) by the end of the first.

Panarin's late second-period goal was an interesting one. His first attempt hit Richard Panik, who had slid into the net, but he would score on the second attempt.

"I just battled with the guy to the net. I got an elbow to the head, then I just heard we scored," said Panik. "I was just shaking off from the elbow. I didn't even know there was a shot coming."

The Blackhawks will have some decisions to make during their final three road games. They may rest players as the road trip wears on and may tinker with some lines to see what their postseason options are. Sunday's game was fine but considering how much the Blackhawks already had wrapped up entering it, it wasn't surprising it wasn't their best 60-minute effort.

"I think we had to come out hard. I think both teams were feeling each other out," Brent Seabrook said. "A couple of plays we could have been better on. That's it."

Blackhawks release team statement, stand by name and Native American logo

Blackhawks release team statement, stand by name and Native American logo

In light of the news that MLB's Cleveland Indians and the NFL's Washington Redskins are considering name changes, the Blackhawks released a team statement on Tuesday standing by their name and Native American logo.

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The full statement reads:

The Chicago Blackhawks name and logo symbolizes an important and historic person, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation, whose leadership and life has inspired generations of Native Americans, veterans and the public.

We celebrate Black Hawk’s legacy by offering ongoing reverent examples of Native American culture, traditions and contributions, providing a platform for genuine dialogue with local and national Native American groups. As the team’s popularity grew over the past decade, so did that platform and our work with these important organizations.

We recognize there is a fine line between respect and disrespect, and we commend other teams for their willingness to engage in that conversation.

Moving forward, we are committed to raising the bar even higher to expand awareness of Black Hawk and the important contributions of all Native American people.

We will continue to serve as stewards of our name and identity, and will do so with a commitment to evolve. Our endeavors in this area have been sincere and multi-faceted, and the path forward will draw on that experience to grow as an organization and expand our efforts.

Why Blackhawks won't be at a disadvantage facing Oilers in Edmonton

Why Blackhawks won't be at a disadvantage facing Oilers in Edmonton

The NHL and NHL Players' Association took a significant step forward on Monday, announcing that the two sides have reached a tentative agreement on the Return to Play plan and Collective Bargaining Agreement extension that also includes transition rules. It's not official until the owners and players ratify the entire package, but there's little reason to believe it won't get approved.

If all goes as planned, the qualifying round will begin on Aug. 1 in the two hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. Each conference will stay in their respective regions, which means the Blackhawks will be anchored down in Edmonton.

The NHL was originally planning to send the Western Conference teams to the Eastern Conference hub and the Eastern Conference teams to the Western Conference hub to avoid giving a Return to Play club any sort of competitive advantage, but the league and players decided against that due to the geographical complications.

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So will the Blackhawks be at a disadvantage in their five-game play-in series against the Oilers on the Oilers' home surface? The simple answer is, no.

For one, there will be no fans in attendance and that's half the battle in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks may be considered the road team as the No. 12 seed taking on the No. 5 seed, but the only thing that's going to be different throughout the series is their jersey color.

Where the home-ice advantage would really come into play is off the ice, but the Oilers won't exactly be in the comfort of their own environment.

All 12 teams are required to stay inside the bubble — which the NHL is calling its "Phase 4 Secure Zone" — and any individual that leaves without permission may be subject to consequences up to and including removal. The team could also be punished in the form of hefty fines and/or loss of draft picks. That should be enough for players to take things seriously, in case there's any temptation.

But the overall point is, Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and the rest of the Oilers won't have the luxury of sleeping in their own bed or being in the comfort of their own home during off-days. They have to pack multiple suitcases and stay inside the designated boundaries that includes hotels, dining destinations, the arena, practice facilities and demarcated areas (indoor and outdoor), just like everyone else. That's how life would have been for the Blackhawks had Chicago been chosen as a hub city.

In some ways, this could actually play in the Blackhawks' favor. There aren't any expectations when you're the road team going into a game, let alone a series in this unique situation. The Blackhawks had nothing to lose to begin with, considering their playoff chances were all but over prior to the NHL suspending its season on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though they had a better win percentage at home, the Blackhawks played some of their best hockey this season when they were on the road, so it wouldn't be surprising if they upset the Oilers by sticking to their road mentality.

“On the road, you’re kind of naturally an underdog," Connor Murphy said in February. "Going into those games, you just seem to rally with each other even more and have some more of that desperation, knowing they could gain momentum with a goal and or a big chance. When you have a little bit of that underdog mentality, I think that can be good, and it gives a little more fight and bite in your game.”