It was another quiet day for the Blackhawks, who did not make a trade Monday ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline.
The only news involving the Blackhawks was the activation of goaltender Corey Crawford from injured reserve, which sent Collin Delia back to the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL. Other than that, though, the Blackhawks will play out the final 19 games this season with the same roster they had Sunday.
So what’s left for the final six weeks of the regular season? Let’s find out:
The playoff ... chase?
Back-to-back losses to two Central Division opponents that the Blackhawks were chasing in the wild card standings put substantial dents in the hopes that Chicago would return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2019:
Per @domluszczyszyn's model, the Blackhawks' playoff chances dropped from 25 percent to 7 percent with the losses to Colorado and Dallas. Ouch. https://t.co/IegXOsgtLW— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 25, 2019
On Jan. 19, the day before the Blackhawks started their eight-game win streak, they were 10 points out of a wild card spot and, with 41 points, were dead last in the NHL. Chicago is 24th in the league now but, after those back-breaking weekend defeats, still five points from a wild card spot. After a 14-game stretch with a 10-4 record — with Chicago’s offense lighting up scoreboards at an absurd rate — the Blackhawks only covered half the ground they had to make up.
And that was with virtually every team the Blackhawks were chasing mired in slumps. The Wild have won their last three games, the Avalanche their last four, and the Coyotes are 6-4 in their last 10. Chicago’s five-point gap may be even larger by the time it takes the ice Wednesday night in Anaheim. The road to the wild card feels nearly as steep now as it did in mid-January.
Four games against teams trailing Chicago
- Ducks (Wednesday in Anaheim)
- Canucks (March 18)
- Kings (March 2 and 30 in Los Angeles)
- Flyers (March 21)
Six games against three teams in the middle of the Western Conference wild card hunt
- Stars (March 9 in Dallas, April 5)
- Coyotes (March 11 in Chicago and March 26 in Arizona)
- Avalanche (March 23-24 home-and-home)
Chicago probably needs a minimum of four regulation wins in those games to get back in picture.
Eastern Conference games
- Two probable playoff teams on the road in the Leafs on March 13 and Canadiens on March 16 along with one team chasing a wild card spot in the Sabres on March 7 in Chicago.
- Two games against the Sharks, which is bad news because Chicago has a dismal 3-10-3 record against the Pacific Division this season.
Final push against Central Division foes
If the Blackhawks remain in the wild card hunt by the final week of the season, they’ll face a brutal four-game stretch to close the season. Chicago does have a 10-6-3 record against Central Division opponents this season, but points will be difficult to come by in that final week.
- Jets (April 1)
- Blues (April 3)
- Stars (April 5)
- Predators (April 6 in Nashville)
Staying the course
General manager Stan Bowman hinted at a quiet deadline last week, as John Dietz from The Daily Herald tweeted Monday morning as a reminder:
Stan Bowman during our talk last week: "I'm not trying to land UFAs. I'm interested in doing hockey trades, but I'm not trying to look for a guy that's only got a couple months left. ... I'm not burning down the phones (for) those guys."#Blackhawks— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) February 25, 2019
We've shown signs that things are trending in the right way. We still have more to go on that journey."— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) February 25, 2019
Any deals completed by the Blackhawks on Monday would’ve been minor ones. The Blackhawks didn’t have any attractive veterans on expiring contracts that are in high demand at the trade deadline, and are still not in a position to be auctioning off picks and prospects to add to the roster.
Right now, the Blackhawks are in the purgatorial space between being a contender and being a total rebuilder. Chicago’s front office has maintained they’re working on building toward contention again. Another stretch of victories that inserts Chicago back into the playoffs could offer more credence to that. While a plummet to the NHL basement could yield another high draft pick, it’d again raise questions about whether or not the Blackhawks can return to contention as soon as their front office has been saying.