Blackhawks

How Blackhawks are impacted by NHL counting play-in results as playoff stats

How Blackhawks are impacted by NHL counting play-in results as playoff stats

When the NHL announced its new 24-team playoff format, it also declared the regular season completed. That means that the 189 games remaining on the regular season calendar will not be played, and all regular season statistics are final.

The league also announced that the qualifying round and round robin games are not technically playoff games, creating a kind of limbo between the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

A lot of questions have been raised about the stats in these purgatorial games for record-keeping purposes. It seems we now have an answer:

 

The NHL announced the Art Ross, Rocket Richard and Jennings Trophy winners on Thursday, officially marking the end of regular season stat-keeping. So while the play-in and round robin games will not officially count as playoff games, any points, saves or other statistics accrued will officially count as playoff stats for players. 

What does this all mean for the Blackhawks? A few things.

For one, it means that Jonathan Toews’ streak of consecutive seasons with 20 or more goals is now over at 12, as he finishes the 2019-20 campaign with a career-low 18 goals. 

Entering this season, the only three players who had scored 20 or more goals in each of the last 12 seasons were Toews, Patrick Kane and Alex Ovechkin. Kane (13 seasons) and Ovechkin (15), who extended their streaks in 2019-20, are now the only two remaining on the list. 

It also means that Kane’s 84 points in 70 games gives him a point-per-game total of 1.20 for the season, the third best in his illustrious career. Kane finished with five goals in the final five games of the regular season, surpassing the 30-goal plateau for the fifth time in his career. That ties Jeremy Roenick for the sixth most in Blackhawks franchise history. 

It means that Dominik Kubalik’s late Calder Trophy push comes to an early end, as well. He finishes his rookie season with 30 goals, tied with Artemi Panarin and Eric Daze for the third most by a Blackhawks rookie in franchise history. 

It means that Alex DeBrincat will not reach the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his young NHL career. After his 28-goal rookie season, DeBrincat followed up with 41 goals in 2018-19. But a 10% drop in his shooting percentage this season left him with just 18 — with a fresh three-year extension kicking in next season. 

The good news? While the Blackhawks’ play-in contests against the Edmonton Oilers won’t officially count as playoff games, youngsters like DeBrincat, Kubalik, Kirby Dach and others will get a crack at accumulating playoff points for the first time in their career. 

And for legends like Kane and Toews, it’s an opportunity to climb the all-time leaderboards.

Kane’s 123 playoff points ranks fourth in Blackhawks franchise history — six behind third-ranked Bobby Hull. Three more points also propels Kane into the top-50 all-time in NHL playoff points. Toews’ 110 points ranks sixth in Blackhawks franchise history, just a single point shy of Steve Larmer in fifth. 

One stat that might remain in limbo? Playoff wins by a goaltender.

Corey Crawford already owns the Blackhawks franchise record with 48 playoff wins, which ranks 22nd all-time in NHL history. However, if he’s able to lead the Blackhawks to three wins and an upset of the Oilers in the best-of-five qualifying round, will those count towards his playoff win total? That remains to be seen. Only 19 goalies in league history have ever amassed 50 or more playoff wins.

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Why Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik could decide Blackhawks-Oilers series

Why Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik could decide Blackhawks-Oilers series

With the NHL’s new 24-team playoff format, we know that the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers will face off in a best-of-five qualifying round. 

What we don’t know is when and where.

That gives us plenty of time to break down the matchup at length. Pundits around the league have already tabbed this series as one of the most exciting of the postseason — and one with great upset potential.

“They’ve got all the Hall of Famers that you’ve talked about, and you talk about the veteran guys being able to make a difference, that’s why I think Chicago can pose to be a very difficult matchup here,” NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes said on a recent panel.

We know that teams were against the idea of a shortened three-game play-in series, in part because of players like Patrick Kane, but a five-game series means that the players between the pipes could make the biggest difference. 

“How about Corey Crawford? With a little pause, a little rest, how about Corey Crawford in a short window coming in for Chicago and having a good first series against Edmonton,” E.J. Hradek said. “I think that matchup, when you think about it, you have Mike Smith, who is another veteran, and then you have Corey Crawford at the other end. 

“Corey Crawford could be in a position, if he’s hot and if he’s right, to steal a short series like that against the Edmonton Oilers.”

Crawford won both of his starts against the Oilers in the 2019-20 regular season, posting a .923 save percentage and a 2.01 goals against average. In the run-up to the NHL’s pause on March 12, Crawford won five of his last seven games, posting a sparkling .934 save percentage. 

“It will certainly be a fun series to watch. There will be a lot of star power and there will be a lot of pressure on the goaltenders because these two teams can score,” Hradek said. 

It’s easy to look at the big names that this series will feature, including Kane, Jonathan Toews, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (who Weekes tabbed as his league MVP). But often in the playoffs, it’s the goals that don’t show up on the highlight reels that make the biggest difference. 

“One thing I look for in the playoffs, too, is net-front players,” said Weekes. “I look at the Chicago Blackhawks and (Dominik) Kubalik coming in this year and playing as well as he has. Great find by Stan Bowman. 30 goals this season. Him being in front of the net certainly helps. 

“Why? You know that net-front area offensively is so critical.”

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NHL playoff format could hurt Oilers, but Connor McDavid won’t complain

NHL playoff format could hurt Oilers, but Connor McDavid won’t complain

The NHL’s Return To Play plan has been a point of contention between the league and the player’s association for weeks now. And despite the official announcement of a 24-team playoff format, not every NHL club is happy. 

The format favors some teams, like the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens, who are slated to sneak into the play-in tournament even though they likely had little chance to make the playoffs had the regular season been completed in normal fashion. 

For other teams, like the Edmonton Oilers, the new format is not as favorable. Still, Oilers superstar Connor McDavid acknowledged the plan represents a best-case scenario for the league.

 

At the time the NHLsuspended play, the Oilers had the fourth-most points in the Western Conference with 83. But because they played more games than the Dallas Stars — who had a higher points percentage — they fell to the fifth seed in the new playoff format. 

That means they must play a best-of-five play-in series against the 12th-seeded Blackhawks instead of participating in the round robin between the top four clubs in the conference. 

The NHL’s plan means the Oilers could potentially go from having home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs to not even getting into the final 16. If the Blackhawks can pull off an upset, that is.

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