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The End: Sabres 3, Blackhawks 2

And so concludes the 2021-22 Blackhawks season.

Chicago Blackhawks v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks capped off their worst season since 2005-06 with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres Friday night.

Before the game started, Malcolm Subban regaled KeyBank Center with a pretty nice rendition of the Star Spangled Banner:

Considering these are two bottom-feeder teams, it’s not surprising that the first 40 minutes of the game were pretty boring.

Dominik Kubalik finally broke the monotonous stalemate at 8:47 of the second period to put the Blackhawks up 1-0. Alex Vlasic skated the puck up close to the net before dropping it back to Kubalik in the slot who one-timed it into the back of the net.

It was the only semi-exciting moment in the first two periods.

The third period is when things started to heat up — or the goalies started to make golf plans — as the Sabres and Blackhawks traded goals.

The Sabres tied the game at one just 4:16 into the third period. Jeff Skinner picked off an errant pass from Erik Gustafsson behind the net and slid the puck cross-ice to Tage Thompson, who scored from the side of the net.

Dylan Strome regained the lead for the Blackhawks about five minutes later. After some rare strong cycling from the Blackhawks, Alex DeBrincat teed up Caleb Jones along the half-wall and then Strome tipped in C. Jones’ shot-pass to make it 2-1.

Then another five minutes after that, the Sabres re-tied the game at 2-2 off of Owen Power’s second goal in eight NHL games. The Blackhawks turned the puck over a couple of times before it finally landed on Power’s stick and he beat Collin Delia with a low wrist shot from the high slot.

Of course, the final meaningless game of the season for the Blackhawks and Sabres would go to overtime.

Casey Mittelstadt ended our misery 2:07 into overtime, and the Blackhawks fell 3-2 to the Sabres.

And so, let the offseason and rebuild officially begin.

Notes

  • The 2021-22 Blackhawks season has finally come to an end, but of course they did it in true Blackhawks fashion: by blowing a lead. The Blackhawks finished the season by blowing a lead in 16 of their last 17 games, including tonight. Just another bad trend a new coach will hopefully break the Blackhawks of next season.
  • Also like usual, the Blackhawks only had one decent period, although it was the second period in this game, which was uncommon for this season’s team. They owned 56 percent of the shot attempts in the middle frame while only 34.86 and 15.39 percent in the first and third, respectively. Another trend that can be left behind this season.
  • Interesting that both Kubalik and Strome scored tonight, two guys who are both summer-time decisions for the Blackhawks. It feels like Kubalik isn’t long for Chicago with his disappointing season, but Strome’s back-half seasonal excellence really should make the Blackhawks front office rethink their previous plans to move on from him (if only to raise his value more for an actually useful return). And with few forward prospects projecting to be top-six in the system, it wouldn’t hurt to keep these two around just to fill out a roster.
  • As the rebuild starts in full this offseason, the Blackhawks decisions on defense will be more difficult as they have more than a handful of younger players vying for open spots. C. Jones and Stillman both had rough seasons but are still relatively young with some untapped potential (more the former, IMO). Vlasic and Regula — who played the most of any rookie defensemen this season — showed a ton of poise and promise. And Rockford has some NHL-ready defensemen in Mitchell, Kalynuk, and Galvas. There are others with the IceHogs — most notably Isaak Phillips — that have also done well but are likely a season or two away.
  • You’ll be able to watch a lot of those players plus guys like Lukas Reichel, Josiah Slavin, Michal Teply, Arid Soderblom, and more as the IceHogs play in the upcoming AHL playoffs. They’re the underdogs, but they’ve been in that role all season.
  • This has been a difficult season for the Blackhawks both on and off the ice, and there’s more uncertainty and probably poor team performances coming our way as the team enters a true rebuild, so I just wanted to commend the fans who have stuck it out — if only partially — to the end this season. Congrats and thanks for making it through this with us here at SCH.

Game Charts

Three stars

  1. Casey Mittelstadt (BUF) — GWG
  2. Owen Power (BUF) — 1 goal
  3. Alex Vlasic (CHI) — first NHL assist, 20:28 TOI