Chicago Blackhawks fans are forced to live vicariously this year when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their team isn’t in it, but the good news is there are former Blackhawks involved. A little over a week ago we discussed six former Blackhawks participating in the playoffs. 16 teams qualified for the postseason, but the first round eliminated eight of them. As we enter the second round, four ex-Hawks are lucky enough to move on with a chance to win the Cup. Let’s look at what’s transpired.
A few former Blackhawks have already seen the agony of defeat. Antoine Vermette of the Anaheim Ducks got the worst of it; his team was swept in four games by the San Jose Sharks. Vermette himself only played in two games, and averaged just 6:11 on the ice.
Artemi Panarin of the Columbus Blue Jackets was the next to go. His team lost to the Washington Capitals in six games. Panarin looked phenomenal the first three games, tallying five assists and two goals, including the overtime winner in Game 1. But the Caps neutralized him in the latter three games, where he walked off without a single point. This was Panarin’s third postseason where he was eliminated in the first round.
Those Moving On
Tommy Wingels, Boston Bruins
Wingels snuck in by the skin of his teeth. His role with the Hawks and now with the Bruins is that of a grinder, to be physical and hard to play against. He was doing his job quite well when he became the recipient of a dirty hit in the Bruins’ first game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wingels sat out injured for the next game, and the team chose not to dress him in the third contest of the series. But Patrice Bergeron wasn’t available for Game 4, which gave Wingels the opportunity to play. He came back with a vengeance, recording four hits and four blocked shots in 12:55 minutes of ice time.
But the veteran was scratched for Games 5 and 7, and his impact was minimal in Game 6, where he played less than 10 minutes. At this point, it doesn’t appear he’s considered a significant part of the lineup for the Bruins. But his team did beat the Maple Leafs in seven games. Will Wingels have a chance to contribute in the next round against the Tampa Bay Lightning?
There is a positive here to note for the Blackhawks that was one of the stipulations of the Wingels trade. Now that the Bruins have made it past the first round, the Hawks fifth-round pick turns into a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft. The Hawks will have nine selections in the 2019 draft.
Ryan Hartman, Nashville Predators
Here’s a tidbit for you. Former Blackhawk now turned Predator Ryan Hartman was suspended for an illegal hit to the head on Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg during Game 4 of this first-round matchup. Not only did Hartman get called for his hit to Soderberg in the third period, but he received a penalty in the second period for roughing after getting speared by another Avalanche player. The spearing call was missed, and instead of letting it go, Hartman went after the player and got a penalty himself.
Does this sound familiar? Hartman always had a problem taking stupid penalties with the Blackhawks. It appears this hasn’t changed with his new team. Hartman’s suspension caused him to miss Game 5, and he was proclaimed a healthy scratch for Game 6. Are the Nashville coaches sending him a message like Coach Q did in Chicago? The Preds have advanced to the next round against Winnipeg. It remains to be seen if Hartman can redeem himself and contribute to the success of the team.
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
Wow, did Byfuglien have himself a series against the Minnesota Wild! The Jets won in five games, and Byfuglien was a huge part of that. The defenseman contributed five assists altogether; one in each of the first three games and two in the last contest. He also recorded 16 shots on goal, 25 hits, eight blocked shots, and averaged 25 minutes of ice time.
The Jets are obviously relying on Byfuglien to play heavy minutes, help contribute offensively, and bring a strong physical element to the game. This will all be greatly needed as the Jets face the Predators in Round 2.
Michal Kempny, Washington Capitals
Who woulda thunk it? Kempny went from being the defenseman that didn’t fit in with the Hawks to a top-four guy on a team that has a shot at a Stanley Cup. The Capitals had a scare when Kempny left Game 1 after being hit from behind by Josh Anderson, but he did not sustain a concussion or major injury and suited up for the rest of the series against the Blue Jackets.
In the last five games, Kempny averaged 19:25 minutes of ice time. He contributed 11 shots on goal, seven hits, and nine blocked shots. Overall he’s been a solid presence for the Capitals, just as they foresaw. Kempny and the Caps take on the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
Eight teams are currently left in this year’s postseason. Playoff hockey is thrilling enough as it is, but it adds a little extra excitement to have ex-Blackhawks involved. We know for sure either Byfuglien or Hartman will advance, as they face off against each other. Can Wingels and Kempny move on with their teams as well? Who will be left still standing after Round 2?