Coming into the “playoff” series against the Nashville Predators the Blackhawks have looked hit-or-miss for the month of April. March was hard on Chicago, and they saw their playoff chances trickle away as the losses piled up. Since April Fool’s Day Chicago’s record has been 4-5-0, and Chicago has maintained its place as a bubble team. They might make the playoffs, and they might not. (Probably not.)
With less than a dozen games left in the season, the Chicago Blackhawks’ youth movement has been a success this year. What this likely means is at the very least that Chicago’s depth has been improved. In fact, the team will now have so many options that it’s likely there will be more trades in the off-season.
Yes, Chicago lost an ugly game to Nashville. Yes, Kevin Lankinen was pulled in the third period. In fact, that was the first time coach Jeremy Colliton pulled a goalie this season. Ben Pope confirmed this on Twitter,
What’s important though are the contributions made by Chicago’s new players. Lankinen’s been discussed all season, and rightfully so. However, a goalie isn’t everything and it’s worth considering all the new players Chicago has gotten into games everywhere else on the ice.
At center, Chicago has been able to play rookies Philip Kurashev and Pius Suter. This is in addition to David Kampf, Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach, Dylan Strome, and now Adam Gaudette. That’s a lot of players to find ice time for, and they won’t all get it. Someone will be dealt, but it doesn’t matter. Chicago has players to spare, and it feels like it’s been a while since that was the case.
It’s the same on defense. Chicago played a bunch of new guys, and excluding Lucas Carlsson and Madison Bowey who are no longer with the team, the Blackhawks iced 6 defensemen who were 25 or younger. Nikita Zadorov, Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Boqvist, Wyatt Kalynuk, Riley Stillman, and Ian Mitchell. That’s a game’s worth of blueliners that will flesh out Chicago’s defensive depth in the coming years.
A lot of young players saw quality ice time this season, and every single one of those players got into at least 10 games. Even if on the scoresheet it wasn’t very pretty at times, the season has gone according to plan. It’s hard to look at this year and think that the team will be worse off for next year.