The Chicago Blackhawks had been playing great hockey but fell completely off the deep end as March went on. Now, they must look towards April.
Despite winning a close game on Tuesday over the Carolina Hurricanes, the ‘Hawks struggled significantly throughout the entire month of March. While they had looked primed to perhaps make a run for the playoffs, the team now finds itself neck and neck with the Nashville Predators in the standings.
The Preds and Blackhawks have played the same amount of games and are currently tied at 39 points. However, Nashville has won their last six games and is currently holding onto the last playoff spot in the tight Central Division, with the ‘Hawks on their tail.
With the playoff race so close, Chicago will definitely want to make sure that their April is not a repeat of their March. That being said, their April schedule is certainly not going to do them any favors. Their first game, on April 1, is against the Hurricanes, who the ‘Hawks have struggled with all year.
After that, they’ll travel south to play, who else, the Nashville Predators. This is a game that the Blackhawks really need to pick up two points on. Head Coach Jeremy Colliton will definitely have this game circled on his calendar, and the rest of the team should do. Especially given that neither team has any games-played advantage over the other, this is a key matchup.
The rest of April’s schedule is highlighted by a pair of games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who sit in sixth in the Central behind the ‘Hawks, as well as a pair of games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers at the end of the month. However, the most critical point may come the week of April 18th, when Chicago will play three straight games versus the Predators.
This trio of games may wind up being extremely consequential for both teams, depending on how they’ve been performing, and how their game prior in the month went. One of the big questions will be the continuing play of their special teams. Although the powerplay had cooled off a bit, it is back up and running now, and the Blackhawks currently have the second-best powerplay unit in the league. That’s something they’ll definitely need to continue.
Additionally, the hot goaltending of Kevin Lankinen bailed the team out of more than one contest that they should’ve lost in March, this past game against Carolina being a perfect example. If Lankinen can stay on top of his game the way he has been, then Chicago should be able to focus on scoring goals at the other end of the ice.
The ‘Hawks have currently scored the 13th most goals in the league. While this is not bad, it would be nice to see guys keep finding the back of the twine, and for this team to do what it does best. Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat have 13 and 19 goals, respectively. In order for April to be a successful year, the scoring trends will have to continue.
This upcoming month is going to be a tough one for Chicago, and the last few weeks of April could go a long way in deciding whether or not the Blackhawks make the playoffs. If they are able to pull off the wins when they need to, though, then they have the potential to make up a ton of lost ground from March. As always, though, only time will tell.