Blackhawks melt down late in third period vs. Wild, fail to gain ground in division race

With key teams losing ahead of them in the standings, the Blackhawks needed two points on Tuesday night. They were unable to find them, as they fell to the Minnesota Wild.

While the Chicago Blackhawks are in a more fortunate position than some of their Western Conference counterparts, in that they've already locked up a playoff spot, there's still plenty to be determined in terms of playoff seeding. With the St. Louis Blues having lost and the Nashville Predators down to the Colorado Avalanche at the time of this recap, the Hawks found themselves with an opportunity to improve their playoff positioning heading into the final couple of games of the regular season.

They were unable to do that. It wasn't as if they didn't have their opportunities. But they were ultimately able to come up with any sort of offense for the better part of 60 minutes, an alarming theme of this team even before Patrick Kane went down, and thus added to the Devan Dubnyk narrative, as he quieted the Hawks in the 2-1 victory for the road team.

It took nearly 50 minutes for either team to find the back of the net. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, the first one to do so was Mikael Granlund. Corey Crawford made an incredible save that set up a faceoff in the defensive zone. The Wild were able to gain control of the puck on the ensuing draw and afforded the Wild the opportunity to get ahead.

They went on to add to it just a short while later, as Jason Zucker, just returned from an injury that held him out for almost 30 games, took the puck to the net and put it past Crawford. David Rundblad was characteristically awful on the goal, with a virtual flyby on Zucker as he was on his way to the net.

The Hawks were able to get on the board extremely late in this one, with Bryan Bickell bringing them within one. The Hawks had the net empty and were able to score on a rush. Brandon Saad was able to create a chance in the final minute of the game, but the Blackhawks were unable to add another one.

The loss keeps them three points back of the Blues, with the potential for falling four back of the Preds depending on how things shake out later on Tuesday night. Whatever dream the Blackhawks might have had of home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs appears to be waning at this point.

On the plus side, Corey Crawford was, once again, absolutely brilliant. While the Hawks held the advantage in Corsi and shot totals throughout the night, Crawford came up with some tremendous saves in order to keep things even throughout the night. Of course, his offense in front of him was unable to get the job done, and even just the two goals allowed were too much for the Hawks to overcome.

Some other observations:

  • Michael Rozsival continues to be really bad.
  • But not quite as bad as David Rundblad. There's a reason he can't get time over Old Man River. Maybe the Hawks should give Michael Paliotta a run? He is playoff eligible after all.
  • Is Kris Versteeg only capable of playing sound hockey when he's on a line with Patrick Kane? He's had some serious issues of late, and had a visibly poor night on Tuesday.
  • Teuvo Teravainen did some more positive things on Tuesday. One that stood out was a strong defensive play in his own zone in the latter half of the third period. That element of his game was a concern initially, but has improved dramatically in a short time.
  • Kyle Baun played well over 13 minutes (logged more time than Teuvo) and didn't add much of anything other than a generous amount of physicality. He contributed five hits to the effort. Love that #grit, though.

The Hawks will have a rematch of Sunday's tilt with the St. Louis Blues, with this one taking place on the road. It may be too little, too late in terms of seeding, but stranger things have happened. We'll see if the Blackhawks can muster up any sort of offense on Thursday night.

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.