The Blackhawks’ victory over the Stars on Sunday was a bright note in an otherwise lackluster month of May for Chicago. A 4-2 victory in front of home fans for the first time in more than a year is a job well done, especially when the victory was sparked by the young players who have either earned their places going forward (guys like Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Hagel) or more in-depth looks next season (like MacKenzie Entwistle and Mike Hardman).
Monday’s game between the same two teams is the final of the season for both. It’s mostly irrelevant, except for the possibility of the Blackhawks reaching .500 on the season (24-25-6 currently). Both Chicago and Dallas have been eliminated from playoff contention and the Stars are too far ahead in points for the Blackhawks to catch up. However, it provides another chance for looks at young players who otherwise may not have had an opportunity this season.
After all, 14 of the Blackhawks’ 19 players on Monday were either not on the Blackhawks’ roster last season or didn’t qualify for their rookie season — players like Hagel and Nicolas Beaudin played just one game. Among the players who were on the team, several are core pieces for the future as well, from DeBrincat to Dominik Kubalik to Connor Murphy.
Speaking of DeBrincat, the young forward upped his production against the Stars from four goals this season to six (in seven games) Sunday. With 31 goals this season — just one behind Hart favorite Connor McDavid — DeBrincat could look to make it a perfect eight goals for eight games against Dallas.
The seven-defensemen strategy may not have worked, with Chicago giving up 3.2 expected goals against at 5-on-5 and 16 high-danger chances, but it allowed Alec Regula another game of experience and got Ian Mitchell back in the mix, even if none of them got above 15 minutes.
The Blackhawks have not often played great games against the Stars this season, so Sunday was not an anomaly. Chicago has a 42.73 share of the expected goals during 5-on-5 play against Dallas this season and a 45.02 share of the shots on goal. Yet the Hawks are 5-2-0 against the Stars in 2021, mainly the result of a 1.011 PDO at all strengths and five power-play goals, tied for third-best in the Central Division against the Dallas penalty kill.
With a strong game from Kevin Lankinen rounding out his rookie season, the Blackhawks turn back to Collin Delia in net for the season finale. Delia has played well in two of his last three games and the Blackhawks’ third goaltender, Malcolm Subban, hasn’t started a game since May 3, when he was pulled in favor of Delia.
The Blackhawks put a cap on a confounding season on Monday. Both teams may be tired at the end of a compacted season, especially ending on a back-to-back set. Yet there are still things to learn about players that could be important in further seasons and that may end up being more important than the score.
Let’s develop Hawks.
Tale of the Tape
Blackhawks — Statistic — Stars
46.21% (29th) — Corsi For — 52.44% (8th)
44.54% (31st) — Expected goals for — 53.34 (6th)
2.82 (16th) — Goals per game — 2.75 (18th)
3.25 (24th) — Goals against per game — 2.62 (8th)
46.4% (29th) — Faceoffs — 51.8% (7th)
22.2% (9th) — Power play — 23.4% (6th)
77.0% (27th) — Penalty kill — 78.5% (22nd)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
DeBrincat — Suter — Kane
Kubalik — Kurashev — Hagel
Gaudette — Kampf — Hinostroza
Hardman — Entwistle — ??
Stillman — Murphy
Mitchell — Beaudin
Zadorov — Kalynuk
Kiviranta — Hintz — Pavelski
Robertson — Benn — Seguin
Cogliano — Faksa — Cameau
Kero — Dickinson — Gurianov
Lindell — Klingberg
Oleksiak — Heiskanen
Hanley — Sekera
How to watch
When: 7 p.m.
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, NBC Sports
Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV