Analysis

5 Chicago Blackhawks’ Thoughts From Narrow Loss To Hurricanes

By Colin Likas
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 08: Scott Darling
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 08: Scott Darling /
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This Chicago Blackhawks-Carolina Hurricanes game was as uneventful as the rest, despite some former Blackhawks returning to the United Center

It’s almost always a chore to watch the Chicago Blackhawks face the Carolina Hurricanes. There’s no rivalry, and the teams rarely meet when the Blackhawks are really pushing for points.

This was the case again Thursday, although the Blackhawks were well out of the playoff hunt instead of well beyond the field. This game did matter to Carolina, which is still in the Eastern Conference wild-card chase, and the Canes responded with a 3-2 victory.

Scott Darling made his return to the United Center and … didn’t have to do much. He was scalded in the first period, but was able to ease in and relax because the Blackhawks are just floating along right now.

Let’s look at some thoughts from this forgetful affair.

You might want to shoot it

Look, I realize there’s nothing for Chicago to play for in the positive direction. I also realize Carolina is a solid possession team — more accurately, the best 5-on-5 possession team in the league. (This isn’t a recent phenomenon.)

But let’s take a look at the Blackhawks who had one or fewer shots in this game: Nick Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat, Artem Anisimov, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, Vinnie Hinostroza, Patrick Kane.

That’s not going to work if you actually want two points. The Blackhawks probably don’t want two points (at least the top of the organization probably doesn’t). But it’s still a pretty baffling performance. While Carolina is a good possession team, there’s nothing to suggest all of those guys should suddenly disappear on the offensive end — while playing at home, no less.

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On second thought …

… the Blackhawks got absolutely skulled in possession Thursday. It was the exact opposite of Sunday’s game against Anaheim, to whom the Blackhawks managed to lose in blowout fashion. Way to go, J.F. Berube (no sarcasm).

The Blackhawks’ best period of 5-on-5 possession was the first, in which they posted a team possession percentage of 37.5. The second period saw them carry the puck at a 22.2 percent rate in even-strength action.

There are rat hockey teams that would fare better holding the puck against Carolina than the Blackhawks did in that second period. The Canes should be credited for being strong on the puck, but that’s an impressively bad performance, regardless of future goals (i.e. tanking).

Welcome to the party, pal

When Berube was called up earlier this year, he likely knew he was walking into a tough situation. If he had any idea he’d be faced with games like this, though, he probably would’ve skated the other way as fast as possible.

The Blackhawks are giving Berube a reasonable look going into the 2018-19 season, and this was a nice showing for the guy. He ended up with a .925 save percentage in defeat as his team essentially abandoned him. One of his goals allowed came shorthanded. There’s nothing to complain about with the goalie here.

I think Anton Forsberg is still the Blackhawks’ guy moving forward, but Berube should be given a look as well. Not necessarily to replace Forsberg, but in case Corey Crawford has health issues that span beyond this season.

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Why is this still happening?

I get it. Veterans want to play, even in a lost season. But if you told Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook their minutes were being reduced to see what the younger guys could do amid the idea of a quick rebuild, I doubt they’d complain.

Why are Kane and Toews playing in excess of 20 minutes when no other forward can say the same? Why are Keith and Seabrook skating in excess of 23 minutes when no other defenseman can say the same?

Nothing about this makes sense. There are plenty of guys you can put on the ice to eat up minutes while also trying to state their case for next season and beyond. Maybe this is more true on the offensive end than the defensive end, but there’s really no reason for guys who look worn out skating excessive minutes in a lost season.

Former Blackhawks update

Darling finished with a .917 save percentage on the night, far exceeding his performance for the cumulative season. I have no reason to pile on the guy; just pointing this out for anyone who still thinks he could drag this Blackhawks team to the playoffs in Crow’s absence.

Trevor van Riemsdyk and Klas Dahlbeck played the fewest minutes among Carolina’s defensemen on the night. You might recognize those names.

Teuvo Teravainen had a goal taken away later on (awarded to Sebastian Aho), and somehow skated less than 15 minutes in this game. That would’ve been his 20th goal of the campaign, good for a second-place tie among current Blackhawks.

Next: Blackhawks, Rutta Agree To One-Year Contract

What I’m saying is, the Blackhawks should regret dumping one of these names, and none of the others. Chicago returns to action Saturday at Boston to start a home-and-home duet with the Bruins.

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