I’m not sure how they did it, but somehow the Chicago Blackhawks managed to make the final week of their 2018-19 season rather entertaining. No, it wasn’t because of a miraculous comeback for a playoff spot. They were still technically in the race even after losing in overtime (thereby gaining one point) last Monday night. But a win by the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday officially eliminated the Hawks from playoff contention. Regardless, they took their last three “meaningless” games seriously. In other words, they made them meaningful. Let’s take a look.
Blackhawks’ Week 27 Matchups
Vs. Winnipeg Jets, Mon. 4/1, Loss 4-3 (OT)
Vs. St. Louis Blues, Wed. 4/3, Win 4-3 (SO)
Vs. Dallas Stars, Fri. 4/5, Win 6-1
@ Nashville Predators, Sat. 4/6, Loss 5-2
Overall Record: 36-34-12, 84 points
Related – Blackhawks Fall Short on West Coast Trip
Toews and Kane With Career-Highs
Jonathan Toews earned his 77th point to reach a new career high on a power play tally during the Jets game Monday night. His career-high 35th goal came against the Blues Wednesday night. Plus he scored the shootout winner. And he earned his new high 45 assists against the Stars on Friday. Toews ended the season with 35 goals, 46 assists, and 81 points. Here’s his 35th goal.
Patrick Kane played in his 900th game Monday night. On Wednesday, he contributed a goal and an assist to give him a record 107 points on the season. But he didn’t stop there. On Friday, he scored two more goals, and threaded the needle to provide a beautiful primary assist on Drake Caggiula’s goal on Saturday. Kane finished the season with a team-high 44 goals and 66 assists for 110 points. His assists and points far surpassed previous career-highs, and his 44 goals were only two shy of his 46 goals in the 2015-16 season.
The star forward spoke with the media after they were officially eliminated from the playoffs.
“It’s just crazy that our season’s gonna be over in five days and that’s it for another year. Pretty frustrating, especially when I think a lot of us feel like we’re in our prime.”
Kane’s words and the quality play of both he and Toews is sending a message to management that’s loud and clear. With more support around them next season, they could do some amazing things. The ball’s in your court, general manager Stan Bowman.
Other Milestones in the Last Four Games
There were actually a number of milestones that came in this last week of the season. Here they are below:
- Defenseman Dennis Gilbert was called up from the Rockford IceHogs and made his NHL debut Wednesday against the Blues. In 12:46 minutes of ice time, he recorded a team-high six hits. He told reporters after the game that Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, and Connor Murphy all made a point to give him positive input after almost every shift.
- Unfortunately, goaltender Corey Crawford went down with a groin injury in the second period of the Stars game Friday night. Veteran backup Cam Ward relieved him to play in his 700th NHL game. He ended the night with a win, only allowing one goal on 26 shots for a .962 save percentage. Ward suited up for the season finale, as well, and was arguably the best player for the Blackhawks. He faced 49 shots without much help from his teammates in what could very well be the last game of his career.
- At 39 years old, Chris Kunitz is another player who might have played his last game in the NHL. If that’s the case, he scored a pretty special goal on Friday night at the United Center.
- Dylan Strome scored his 20th goal of the season Friday night, and his 17th as a Blackhawk. It was assisted by Erik Gustafsson, giving the defenseman an amazing 60 points.
- Blueliner Slater Koekkoek earned his first goal as a Blackhawk Friday as well.
- Brendan Perlini broke a nine-game goal drought with a tally Saturday night against the Predators. It was a reminder of his stretch in March when he scored eight goals in seven games.
- Caggiula was the very last Blackhawk to score a goal in this 2018-19 campaign. In these last four games, the gritty forward has also contributed four helpers. His combined 23 points between his time between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago is a career-high for him.
Some Final Blackhawks’ Thoughts
It’s obvious the Blackhawks primary concern is to work on their defensive play in the future. Heck, they allowed 39, 40, 35, and 50 shots in their last four games, respectively. That’s not going work in the long run and needs to be addressed. And it was disappointing the Hawks lost their season finale to the Predators. At least they started the game the right way, by capitalizing on their opponents’ mistakes and generating two goals.
But no one can question the Hawks’ drive and determination. They went out fighting, earning five of a possible eight points in the last week of their season. And against stiff competition and after they were out of playoff contention. That says a lot about their character. For comparison sake, the Minnesota Wild were shut out in their last two games after they were eliminated.
Finally, we can see from the above there is a plethora of offensive firepower on this team. It’s easy to surmise the Hawks could be a much-improved squad next season. Until then, let’s be happy the Blackhawks had more positives than negatives in their final week.