Patrick Kane

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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How Blackhawks' paused 2020 NHL season may compare to 2012-13 lockout

How Blackhawks' paused 2020 NHL season may compare to 2012-13 lockout

When the Blackhawks had group practices at Johnny's IceHouse West during the 2012-13 lockout while they waited for the season to start, there was a purpose and intensity that carried into official team practices, training camp, the regular season and hoisting the Stanley Cup after the 2013 playoffs concluded.

This isn't that.

For one, during the lockout there weren't as many challenging restrictions. Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, players can only work in groups of six and have to cover their face entering and leaving Fifth Third Arena, as well as when they're together and not able to socially distance.

But, with the NHL's 24-team playoff format that has the Hawks taking on the Oilers in a best-of-5 play-in round, they were handed an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup that they won't want to waste. 

Related: What a Blackhawks vs. Oilers play-in series would look like

On NBC Sports Chicago's Blackhawks: The Return special on Wednesday, former three-time Stanley Cup champ with the Hawks turned analyst Patrick Sharp made some interesting comparisons with Chicago coming out of the NHL pause — which began on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — to 2012-13's late start due to the lockout.

"The only experience I can draw on is back to the lockout of 2012-13. We were off from September until January the 15th with a lot of uncertainty," Sharp said. "We didn't know when we were going to start. A lot of false starts, 'Hey, we're going in two weeks, let's get ready. 

"I look back at that Blackhawks team, we started that season 24 games without a loss. That tells me, that our core group, our younger players, guys playing overseas were prepared, ready to start that season. Trust me, we didn't know we were going to start so well that year. 

"We didn't really know what we had in our locker room, but crazy things happen when there's uncertainty across the league. That's what we got now. Either way, it's going to be some exciting hockey when we return." 

The 2019-20 Blackhawks didn't get off to a hot start and continue to dominate the regular season until they snagged the President's trophy like the 2013 Hawks did. In fact, Chicago was most likely going to miss out on the playoffs all together this year in being six points out of a wild card spot with four teams to jump and 12 games remaining at the time of the pause. 

But, players who were on that team and have multiple Stanley Cups on their trophy cases definitely know what it takes to prepare during mass uncertainty. 

There's a difference in starting a shortened season like the lockout year versus coming back after a long lay off to finish it. There will be group workouts then hopefully practices and camps before the postseason, but players won't be anywhere near their usual performance levels. 

Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith may not have been able to skate much due to restrictions, but judging by their social media, aren't just sitting around eating  potato chips to their credit. Having been in unique situations and on big stages before, you can bet leaders like them and Jonathan Toews will do everything in their power to get this Hawks team ready. And like Sharp said, "crazy things happen when there's uncertainty across the league."

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Patrick Kane explains his unique chemistry with Artemi Panarin

Patrick Kane explains his unique chemistry with Artemi Panarin

Even though the NHL announced a plan for pro hockey to return this summer, for now we’re still left to watch classic games on our couches, remembering the good times.

Men’s Journal spoke with Patrick Kane recently to rehash some of those good times, including his high-powered offensive years playing alongside Artemi Panarin.

Last month, Kane made waves by saying skating on the same line with Panarin was the "funnest hockey" he's ever played.

How could that be when he'd won three Cups with other teams and linemates, but he never even won as much as a single playoff series alongside the Breadman?

“After I said that I thought about it a little bit and I didn’t want that to-- I don’t know if that came across the right way,” Kane said. “Those years from 2009-2015 for me, that was so fun… playing on winning, Stanley Cup champion teams, that’s as fun as it’s going to get.

"When I was playing with Panarin I felt like, for me personally, that was like ‘this is how hockey should be played.’ This was just two players combining their talents and having the chemistry... it wasn't like anything was planned or set in stone. We just figured it out on the go. Then after 10 or 15 games you figure out the spots you want to go to.

“It became pretty natural playing with him. It was really, really fun hockey playing with him for those two years. For me personally, that was the most chemistry I’ve probably had with someone, just natural, instinctive chemistry to play that hockey with someone.

“I’m glad I got to do that with him.”

RELATED: Patrick Kane shares how he's spending time during stay-at-home orders

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