Photo: Blackhawks Facebook
The Blackhawks, 27-28-8, are last in the Central Division and 3-7-0 in their previous 10 games. They’re 11 points behind the sixth-place Colorado Avalanche, 12 points behind the Minnesota Wild, who rear up the wild card spot, and a whopping 21 points behind the division-leading Nashville Predators.
How do the Blackhawks look right now?
Tommy Wingels forced a turnover for an assist before the end of the first period and tallied a goal in the second, as a Boston Bruin, traded for a conditional 2019 fifth-round draft pick (made fourth-round if the Bruins re-sign Wingels or advance beyond the first round of the playoffs this year).
General Manager Stan Bowman said they were not easy deals to make.
“It’s disappointing, for sure, but you can’t feel sorry for yourself,” he said. “You have to sit here and try to plan for the future.”
Now, the Blackhawks look like a team that will not have a postseason for the first time in a decade, with cap-crushing contracts clouding slumping stars and the devastation of injury.
Goaltender Corey Crawford had a .929 save percentage and a 2.27 goals-against average with a 16-9-2 record until he was pulled Dec. 23 and joined the long-term injured reserve Dec. 27 with Marian Hossa, who is not expected to return to the game.
Crawford is believed to be dealing with post-concussion syndrome symptoms, and the Blackhawks are not taking any risks this season. Bowman told reporters:
“None of us can read into the future, predict anything. As far as Corey playing this year, I can’t say. What I can tell you is, Corey is not going to play until he is completely medically cleared and he says, ‘I’m ready and I want to play.’
“When those two things happen then he’s going to be back playing.”
So, what now?
With just 19 games remaining, the Hawks have recalled Matthew Highmore from Rockford following their seller’s market trade deadline.
Coach Quenneville told media Highmore would likely be used on the penalty kill and, “now and then” on the power play.
“At some point you knew he was going to get a chance to play up here. He deserved it. He was always in the discussions… Good reward for him and good opportunity down the stretch.
“He’s a hard player, has some skill, good work habits, plays the game the right way.”
“The players who are here right now who will be back, they have to find a way to grow their games. If they’re young players, they have to find a way to expand their arsenal. For the veteran players who were better in previous years, they have to find a way to get back to that level.”
The Hawks have two first-round picks and seven others in this year’s draft. They also have 2014 draft pick center Dylan Sikura, currently playing for Northeastern University (17 goals, 31 assists, and 18 penalty minutes in 31 games), in their grasp if they choose.
And, off the ice, off any prospect trackers, they have rid themselves of one unwelcome presence, four disgraceful “fans” who used their time in some of the United Center’s finest seats to hurl racist insults at Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly, unaware, perhaps of Anthony DuClair on the ice (or Johnny Oduya, Dustin Byfuglien, Ray Emery, Jamal Mayers, and other athletes of color who have been instrumental for the Blackhawks’ success in recent years).
DuClair, one of about 30 black players in a league of about 713 active players, spoke about the four people, allegedly there to cheer on his team:
“You would think there’d be some change after some years. How do I feel? I mean, like, we have some Blackhawks fans that think a certain way. If they’re Blackhawks fans, they would know there is a black hockey player on the team.
“It’s really tough [to internalize it]. It’s obviously a white sport, and you just want to go out there and compete. There’s obviously some ignorant people in this world, so you have to deal with that.”
Quenneville called the behavior “totally unacceptable in our game, in any sport and in society today.”
The four people were kicked out of the game immediately and have been banned from the United Center. The organization apologized to the Capitals and Smith-Pelly.
“Racist comments and other inappropriate behavior are not tolerated by the Chicago Blackhawks,” the Blackhawks said in a statement.
With that bad energy gone, and changes in the lineup, the team moves on to the end of its season, hoping to finish strong.
The remaining regular season:
- Blackhawks at Sharks, 9:00 p.m. C.T. March 1
- Blackhawks at Kings, 3:00 p.m. C.T. March 3
- Blackhawks at Ducks, 3:00 p.m. C.T. March 4
- Avalanche at Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. C.T. March 6
- Hurricanes at Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. C.T. March 8
- Blackhawks at Bruins, 12:00 p.m. C.T. March 10
- Bruins at Blackhawks, 11:30 a.m. C.T. March 11
- Blackhawks at Jets, 7:00 p.m. C.T. March 15
- Blackhawks at Sabres, 12:00 p.m. C.T. March 17
- Blues at Blackhawks, 6:30 p.m. C.T. March 18
- Avalanche at Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. C.T. March 20
- Canucks at Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. C.T. March 22
- Blackhawks at Islanders, 6:00 p.m. C.T. March 24
- Sharks at Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. C.T. March 26
- Jets at Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. C.T. March 29
- Blackhawks at Avalanche, 8:00 p.m. C.T. March 30
- Blackhawks at Blues, 8:00 p.m. C.T. April 4
- Blues at Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. C.T. April 6, last home game
- Blackhawks at Jets, 7:00 p.m. C.T. April 7