Welcome to the Most Important Week of the 2021 Blackhawks Season

After a weekend split with the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks have won four of their last six games. They enter Monday within two points of the Nashville Predators for the fourth playoff spot in the Central Division.

And this week the Blackhawks get three games with Nashville, beginning on Monday night in Nashville. The next two are in Chicago on Wednesday and Friday nights.

The last time the Hawks played Nashville on April 3, Chicago suffered an ugly 3-0 road loss. On March 27 and 28, the Hawks lost back-to-back home games to the Preds by 3-1 and 3-2 scores, respectively. Those three losses have been significant in Nashville jumping the Hawks in the standings.

However, Nashville comes into Monday’s action having lost two in a row. The Preds have won 13 of their last 18 and have been one of the hottest teams in the division over the past three weeks.

When this season began, the Blackhawks were projected to be among the worst teams in the NHL. However, the youth movement has proved to be ready for the NHL and Chicago has been both entertaining and competitive – two adjectives we didn’t know would fit this team when the 2021 calendar year began.

Over the coming five days, the Blackhawks will play what amount to playoff games. These games against the Predators will be the first real test under pressure that many of the young Blackhawks players face at the NHL level.

Fans need to view these three games through three filters filters.

First, how do the young players step up?

There are a few injuries opening opportunities for ice time for younger players. And deals made at the trade deadline will provide increased exposure for others to make a more significant contribution against the team the Blackhawks are directly chasing for a postseason berth. How the young players perform this week will be a strong indication of what the Blackhawks’ needs are in the coming offseason.

Second, how does Kevin Lankinen handle the pressure?

Lankinen has been a wonderful surprise this year, starting camp as the third goaltender on the depth chart but grabbing the crease and running with it as the season has progressed. These games against Nashville are important, the first high pressure games of Lankinen’s NHL career. He looks like a number one goaltender for the coming seasons, but we’ll see how he handles this series with Nashville as a benchmark for his strong rookie campaign.

Finally, how does Jeremy Colliton handle his roster?

Colliton has his flaws, but the roster he was given for this season wasn’t perfect, either. He’s dealt with COVID absences, injuries and now trades of veteran players who were playing important roles in his lineup. He has continued to tweak his lineup, especially on special teams, to varied levels of success. Now, he’ll need to roll his best lines and put players into positions to succeed. How Colliton handles situations this week will give fans – and the front office – a good idea of how ready he is for prime time in the NHL as a head coach.

29 thoughts on “Welcome to the Most Important Week of the 2021 Blackhawks Season

  1. Yes I would have to agree that this is the most important week of the year. If they get dominated again with no pushback against the physicality of Nashville then it should be apparent to even Ray Charles that this rebuild will take forever if at all. If they show up and at least stick up for themselves and make a series out of it then it will show some promise moving forward. Big week for this organization as a whole.

  2. Definitely playoff type experience for them. Law of averages would say they should win at least couple of games against Preds this year but so far everything has gone against that. Also Preds look to be cooling off which may help. Lankinen as you say needs to come through big, did at worlds for Finland, hopefully he does the same again. Special teams battle a must to win, plus showing up when game starts with a 60 minute effort is all we can ask. Agree should go a long way to deciding where or if some of these youngsters fit. Colliton will definitely be under spotlight to ensure he does what’s needed to give them best chance to succeed. Hope they give it good run.

  3. Just for fyi, Borgstrom was 53.3% on faceoffs this year in Europe, his brief Nhl numbers weren’t great, so hopefully this is a better indication of what he brings there.

  4. I don’t think the Hawks will get into the playoffs this year but that’s okay because they’ve played way beyond expectations, there’s tangible hope for the future, and are fun to watch now. All those promising rookies, the resurgence of DeBrincat, and Kane playing like the superstar that he is all adds up to entertaining hockey. Who would have thought that they’d even be in a playoff race after those first four games in Florida? I hope I’m wrong but I think Dallas might sneak into that fourth playoff spot.

  5. Agreed this week will tell a lot about all of the above – young players, the coach

    The first period of the first game should give a good indication of how they will be responding to the pressure – their first periods vs NSH in the last 3 games have been abysmal – clearly the pressure of playing head to head against a team you’re battling for the playoffs with affected this team negatively

    They need some on ice and behind the bench leadership – let’s see if anyone steps up without Toews there to do it

    The one young player I’m not really too concerned about stepping up is Lankinen – I think he’s got the right mix of competitiveness and calm confidence that he’ll rise to the occasion

    If the first period is another train wreck giving up HDC like they’re Halloween candy then I don’t like their chances – if they can match NSH’s work ethic in the first and manage the puck then they have a fighting chance IMO

  6. What ever happen in the next 11 games I am really happy with the team we have now and it’s been fun to watch the kid this year…
    Compare with the 2 last years it’s the best year we had and I also like the end of last year when they kick out the mighty oilers.
    I think Hawks needs 16 pts to make the playoff ..not a easy task.
    Let start with a win tonight .
    Go Hawks Go
    Go Hagel Go

  7. I think Stillman’s play will force some hard decisions about whom to protect in the expansion draft. He seems young and promising enough to be a piece you can build with toward the future.

    He could force them into looking at an 8 skaters protection scheme instead of 3D 7F. Here is what that would look like:
    Toews – Kane – Dcat – Hagel
    Keith – Murphy – Zadorov – Stillman

    This leaves these guys exposed: DeHaan, Strome, Connelly, Nylander, Gaudette, Borgstrom, Kampf, Hino, Shaw, Carpenter.

    The 3D 7F model looks like:
    Toews-Kane-Dcat-Hagel-Strome-Borgstrom-(Nylander/Gaudette/Connelly/Hino pick one. My guess is Nylander due to the young/cheap/high potential, not saying that’s right)
    Keith – Murphy – Zadorov/Stillman

    Leaving these guys exposed: DeHaan, Stillman/Zadorov, Gaudette, Connelly, Hino, Kampf, Carpenter.

    I think this scenario comes down to losing either Zadorov or Stillman depending on whom they protect, while the other scenario probably means losing Strome.

  8. While this 3-game mini-series with Nashville is a good measuring stick for the Hawks and a huge deal in terms of whether or not the Hawks have a chance to make the playoffs this season – it’s really not that important in the big picture of the rebuild and certainly not the final word on the progress made to date. It’s a manufactured milestone in a long journey – fun but not all that significant no matter if they win all three or lose all three. It’s a learning experience regardless the outcome of the games.

    Nashville has become the Hawks main nemesis because they are the divisional opponent that seems to have the Hawks “number” and it’s been that way for a few years. Don’t really know how to quantify it with any specifics but the Hawks have a more difficult time against Nashville than any other team. Is it psychological? Maybe somewhat – if a team keeps whoopin ya it’s got to put you back on your heels a bit.

    Anyway … I’m going to enjoy watching these last bunch of games and although it will be more fun to watch them win games – it’s not the end-all-be-all for this season and I’m very pleased with the progress already made toward the objective of discovering and developing young players.

    Go Hawks!!!!

  9. Refreshing perspective from Puck Logic and Hawks 2010 and a nice exclamation point from ER-
    enjoy and don’t be surprised by the outcome-and better days ahead for all.

  10. Ian – I think regarding the importance of these games you make a good long term point

    However in the short term these games will help management identify out who is capable of rising to the challenge given by a high pressure situation – this is a real bonus for Hawk brain trust – they probably weren’t counting on their young group playing themselves into this situation

    Having said that it’s not going to end anyone’s career if they don’t play well but I think it could really boost some players stock with the CHI organization if they do perform well

    What if Stillman plays really well for instance or Strome lays an egg – both of those players short term future with the Hawks could change

    Subban could get a game – how he plays in this situation could make a difference in whether they pursue another back up goalie or not or if Lank doesn’t play well what then

    Other players like Hagel, Suter, Kurashev, Kalynuk, Mitchell and Zadorov or even Gaudette (if he gets in) can really change the perception of themselves in CHI’s plans with a good series or a bad series vs NSH

    I think there’s a lot that will come out of these 3 games besides who is in the lead for 4th place

  11. First off best of success to Highmore, Janmark, and Soderberg. Appreciate their contributions while they were here as they helped put us in the position we are now in. The picture becomes clearer, and the next few games will help that focus.
    Will Kevin L. step up to the moment, and if not dose it really make that much difference given the season as a whole? Do y’all think Delia will ever be given another opportunity? The d-men weeding out has begun. Bowery and Carllson were the first, who is next? Which of the forwards raise their game? Who do you place your money on? Strome? Dach? Suter? Hagel? I’m very interested to see how Colliton adjusts to what the Preds are doing. Both tonight, and then the next 2 when he has the last change. Regardless, much better year than we all anticipated for which I am grateful. Would you folks rather see Conolloy and Gaudette, or Entswhile and Barratt these next couple of games?

  12. It’s time to put up or shut up. Any player that doesn’t bring his A-game tonight should be sitting in the press box next game.

  13. I have to say despite being hopeful, I don’t have a great feeling about this three game matchup against Nashville. The Hawks just don’t match up against the Preds. Hope I am proved wrong.

    I wonder if Hagel and Hinostroza are able to provide some disruption to slow them down a bit? The ability of those two to cause turnovers that lead to points is something I think the Hawks should try to build on.

    I know the season is not over yet, but I think regardless of how it pans out (playoffs or not) I think this year was a success. They played a lot of kids and the kids showed they belong in some capacity. Hope the ceilings rise for a lot of them, but the first glimpse on most of them were really good.

    One caveat to that is that I am a disappointed that Strome could not do more to secure his place as a top six center on this roster. I’ve been a proponent of his since they traded for him and I thought he could find a way to be a consistent offensive force for the Hawks in the top six. I’m not sure how old a guy needs to be to stop being a prospect, but Strome has to be close to that point. I’m still hoping that he can turn that corner with the Hawks, but I am ready to turn the page if the Hawks decide to move on.

    AS far as. the series with the Preds goes, I hope the Hawks play a more physical game in that when they are forced to dump the puck rather than carry it into the offensive zone, I would like to see the forwards make an effort to simply hit the Predator who retrieves the puck. Not dirty, but simply hit the guy as hard as possible with a clean hit. Pound the shit out of the Predators blue line, then see if maybe the preds loosen up the zone entries a bit. It won’t happen, because the Hawks don’t have a lot of forwards both fast enough and physical enough to do that, but I would like to see the effort made for a period at least.

    Here’s to some entertaining hockey for the stretch run!

  14. Wrap agree with you, just meant if nothing changes there will be 20-25 forwards expecting to win a roster spot in the fall. Obviously some likely moved at draft or over summer most likely. Only a very few be waiver exempt again so can’t carry them all. Bowman will have option of taking a ltir contract from a team, likely a few looking, ability to retain salary on a couple of players, like a Strome or Dehaan if not taken by Seattle, wouldn’t rule out Subban in the draft equation for Seattle either. I’d be surprised if they go 8 skaters, with excess of exempt forwards Seattle can’t get too that could be used to ensure Dehaan taken if that’s what he wants to happen.

  15. a few things on my mind while i keep my retired self occupied waiting for the game tonight……

    i feel the best possible result would be the hawks showing up big time these next three games, playing tough as nails, and losing all three by close scores because nashville is simply the much better team. the people advocating the experience of the hawks making the playoffs outweighs the higher draft choice by not making the playoffs get three playoff type games. those of us who advocate for the hawks missing the playoffs and drafting higher would likely get our wishes.

    vinny – i was unhappy when the hawks traded for him and very unhappy when hagel was dropped to the fourth line in favor of vinny. my congratulations to him on being a vinny we never saw when he last wore the hawks sweater. speed kills, he has lots of it, and he is playing with “hagel effort.” i really hope the hawks sign him. how great it would be if the hawks forwards developed to the point that hagel and vinny were the fourth line forwards come september 22. once again have that fourth line dominance we enjoyed during the cup years.

    zadorov – bowman has once again shown he doesn’t see the big picture and until he does will never be a top gm. putting zadorov on the market indicates the hawks were not happy with his production. no one attempts to trade a d-man of his size and abilities if the player is producing. the whole league knows this. bowman does not set the price to complete a trade for zadorov……the highest bidder does. that might not be what bowman was hoping for, but when you determine a player is not providing your team with what you hope he would then you cut bait and take the best offer on the market. bowman put him on the trade market and it was up to him to get the bidding as high as it would go and make the trade. now he will be a free agent at the end of the year. are they going to really sign a player who they tried to get rid of? are they really going to extend an offer of a multi year contract to a player who did not meet expectations in a contract year? what do they expect his performance will be with a multi year contract in his back pocket if he wasn’t who you hoped he would be when playing for his next contract? bowman has already failed by not trading zadorov for an asset. don’t compound the mistake by signing him to an extension. give stillman the opportunity to me the muscle you hope zadorov would have been.

    strome – only connolly played less minutes than strome in the second detroit game. what is the purpose of dressing him and leaving a player on the bench who might actually hustle? tired of hearing the show casing him for a trade angle. the whole league knows who he is. the hawks are the second team strome has refused to play hard for. there are others on the hawks roster who deserve the opportunity to show they will play hard. put him on the market and take what the market will give. get out from his contract for next year and give anyone else a chance. skills are only part of what makes a hockey player. strome is 24 and you don’t learn to play the game “hagel style” at his age if you haven’t been that type of player by now.

  16. interesting stat for d-men. points per game played this season:

    keith – .31
    murphy – .33
    de haan – .24
    zadorov – .16
    mitchell – .12
    kalynuk – .40
    boqvist – .47
    beaudin – .33

    be interesting to see if kalynuk and beaudin had played more games and keith/murphy/boqvist minutes per game.

  17. Hawks29, i think Bowman was sending a message to Zadorov by the shopping him thing. If you get an offer you can’t refuse of course you take it, but otherwise no need to move him. He does need another contract, Bowman recently said he will get that done and carries a 3.2m qo to retain his rights. So all that and the healthy scratch could be just sending a message to set the mood for upcoming negotiations. Agree on Strome his time seems to have almost run out. If Hino wants to come back he will, as an ufa he controls that and has no relevance in expansion draft.

    Saarela today playing 3C in his league playoffs, 2a and 71% on fos. A bottom 6C prospect loves to hit people and clocked at 22.5 mph as fastest skater on his team and 3rd fastest in the league. Scouts say if makes Nhl his skating will get him there.

  18. I believe the hawks will drop 2 of 3 to nashville, hawks do not have any fight in them when it comes to playing the preds.
    As for lineups…. Gaudette and Hardman need a chance to play, otherwise, why on earth did you get them ?? Connolly is old and slow …get him out !! And not sure who suggested Hagel and Vinny to be playing 4th line, that’s just plain stupid, they are not 4th line players….PERIOD.

  19. Ian…..as for Saarela, speed does not make a player, need hands and hockey ability, otherwise, why not sign that girl that’s supposed to be so fast….. right ? Seriously, hockey skill before speed, if you have both….great.

  20. Big picture wise,this really is not a team yet. They barely know each other and often times play like it. The Colliton scheme should not be played with a smallish non physical team. More important than the actual results of these next 3 games are the progression of this team,s play in pressure situations and can they adjust in game when the puck is not bouncing their way. My opinion is that the next 3 games are most important for Dach-He has to be harder on the puck and play like a top center. Zadorov-Is he going to bring a consistent physical presence and refrain from stupid penalties and turnovers the next 3 games? Strome- Can he piece together 3 strong games in a row where he is actually relevant? Colliton- Will he motivate these young players to play a hard game each and every game for the rest of the season? If Strome and Dach are still floating and ineffective will he shove them down in the lineup ? So many questions and by late Friday nigh we may have a few answers. If they play the game hard and the right way,I am good with whatever the results are.

  21. Tim – agree with most of your post except your lumping of Dach and Strome together

    Dach started the sequence on DCats goal the other night using his body to fend off a checker who was all over him before finding Murphy at the point

    That’s something that Strome has never done that I can recall – agree Strome is having trouble being relevant but Dach IMO is doing fine and has not been the floater that Strome has been my a long stretch

  22. This, for all realistic intents and purposes, is the Hawks playoffs. They need three regulation wins against Nashville in order to even give themselves a shot at the fourth spot in the divison..they can’t even afford to give up one or two loser points to Nashville since realistically, they could lose the last eight games of the season against Tampa, FL, FL, @Car, @Car, @Car, Dal, Dal..it’s a real nasty run to end the season by having six of the last eight against the top three teams in the division. Personally, I feel like Dallas and Nashville will leapfrog the Hawks and they’ll end the season sixth in the division. So, while there are always internal measuring sticks and player evaluations that will be fun to watch over the next few games, I don’t think it will change this teams destiny(for this year at least). The Hawks simply need too much to go right each night in order to get regulation wins and they don’t have the maturity yet to win in a variety of ways. I’m long on the future, but short on the last 11 games as this season wraps itself up.

  23. beer league

    perhaps you should sharpen your reading and processing skills. i never suggested vinny and hagel should be made fourth liners. what i said was if the hawks talent at forward developed to the point that they would be pushed down to fourth line forwards that would be an indication the top nine was in very good shape. vinny has been here for a handful of games, was not in the lineup for a cup competitive team, and has only scored as many as 40 points once in a five year career. hagel started slowly scoring wise, has come along nicely, but is still scoring at a rate of less than 40 points a year. if that speaks top six to you your standard is at a very low bar.

    i don’t know about ian, but i feel very fortunate that you are commenting on this site and are cordial enough to point out when i have posted stupidly.

    ian – not disagreeing with you and what bowman’s intention are, but whatever bowman is doing in regards to sending a message to 16 it is damning in and of itself that a message needs to be sent. if that’s what it takes for any player to show up and play properly i don’t want him on my team. so i am willing to give nylander one more opportunity to show he wants to be an nhl player, but i really have seen all i need to see of 16 & 17. i have beaten the “hagel drum” enough, but i will reference stillman and the effort he has shown so far to want to be a member of this team going forward. and for all of the times highmore seemed to be easily knocked off his skates and his lack of offensive skills i still admired his effort every shift every night. i rarely see those kinds of efforts from 16 & 17. there has been a culture change on this team. de brincat has become a 200 foot player as has kubalik. even kane most nights is playing a harder game. no room for passengers going forward.

  24. As stated previously:
    Hammer and Galt are correct:

    Cannot win a Cup with current coach.

    His system is derived from a European style which is where he came from.

    This is not a man with a plethora of coaching experience, let alone NHL experience.

    A few years in Switzerland and one year in Rockford.
    Not Cup mettle.

    But as poster Steve astutely pointed out, ‘he is taking the club from Point C to point B’.

    Hawks will need a coach to take them to point A.
    Just like 2008, when Savard got replaced by……..well, if you don’t know by now, you are an idiot.

    Remains to be seen if a Cup can be had with current VP of Hockey Operations.
    Recent history of very bad deals from 2016 going forward would say no.
    (Contender to pretender in less than 5 years.)

    But that opinion has to be tempered due to some good prospects this year.

    But only slightly tempered.

    Next three games are put up or shut up time for the Chicago Blackhawks of 2021.

  25. Hawks29 nothing about not appreciating anybody posting, i was just passing some info on a prospect not trying to say he should be on top line, found the reaction odd so i chose sarcasm over a rant. Agree i have never saw what people did in Zadorov all year, but didn’t bring it up much, however Bowman says he is coming back and like him or not most times paired with Murphy’s stats show he’s effective when their together and terrible when paired with somebody else. Strome likely moved in summer i would think.

  26. Since the 11-2-5 stretch were -6? games over .500 NAS is like +8 and DAL is like +6. For the first 20 games we played good and played that PF style. Just cant play that way for 82 games. Really good season for what we wanted and needed.

  27. Forget it! The Blackhawks are toast. Let the kids play the rest of the way. Here’s 3 prospects I like to see: Hardman, Regula and Slavin. Let’s see if Bowman is in a rebuild or using that as excuse for losing.

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