A week ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. They played their last game against the Dallas Stars on Monday night, a 5-4 overtime loss. Finishing their season one game under .500, their regular season came to an end. While many see the Blackhawks season ending at the 56 game mark as a failure, it is actually the opposite. At the beginning of the season, many analysts had the Hawks at the bottom of the Central Division, some even lower than the Detroit Red Wings. The rookies and new acquisitions played incredibly well, the coaching was above average, and the playoffs were not the end goal for them this season. The Chicago Blackhawks’ season can be considered a victory on many fronts.
The 2020-21 Chicago Blackhawks Season Was A Success
Obviously, winning the Stanley Cup is every team’s goal at the beginning of every season. However, that is just as obviously not realistic. Stan Bowman said the Blackhawks were in a rebuilding phase before this season started, so expectations were at an all-time low. But the Blackhawks exceeded those expectations in just about every aspect.
Young Guys Playing Like Veterans
The rookies for the Blackhawks stepped up and played well beyond their years in all positions. Pius Suter was fourth on the team in points and goals, and sixth in assists. Brandon Hagel was another fantastic rookie, fifth on the team in points and averaging about 14 minutes of ice time per game. On the blue line, Ian Mitchell played significant minutes since the start of the season and was a solid second-pairing guy. Riley Stillman and Wyatt Kalynuk started their Blackhawks tenure in the middle of the season, but they quickly showed their skill. And in net, Kevin Lankinen was one of the best rookie goaltenders in the entire league.
It wasn’t just individual performances that propelled the Chicago Blackhawks’ season forward, but the chemistry between players as well. With captain Jonathan Toews out for the entire season, and star center Kirby Dach injured for multiple months, the rookies had to work together with nearly no prior chemistry. But with help from Jeremy Colliton and the rest of the coaching staff, the on-ice teamwork became stronger and stronger. One of the youngest teams in the league, building trust between teammates can take months. So having that built in a matter of weeks is great news for the Hawks.
Win the War, Not the Battle
The goal for the Blackhawks this season was to build a team that could be competitive as soon as possible. Playoffs were not attainable for Chicago this season, but they accomplished their goal. Finishing sixth in the division, a comfortable six points above the Red Wings, the Hawks were not the pushover people thought they would be. Looking forward to seasons ahead, the Blackhawks have plenty of young talent to propel them for multiple seasons. A few of their seasoned players are still producing, like Alex DeBrincat with 31 goals, and Patrick Kane with 66 points. And their goaltending duo of Lankinen and Malcolm Subban should be stable for the foreseeable future. So all in all, the Blackhawks season was very good on all fronts.
Areas of Improvement For The Next Chicago Blackhawks Season
As a team that didn’t make the playoffs, there are still plenty of areas left to improve. The Blackhawks gave up the second-most shots against per game and had the fifth-worst penalty kill percentage. There are very obvious flaws in the defensive play of the Blackhawks, and those need to be fixed over the offseason if the Blackhawks are to be a playoff team. With such a young starting goaltender, allowing over 30 shots per game puts too much pressure on the netminder. Even though the individual players have been good to great this season, there has been a slew of mistakes.
The offence was solid for a non-playoffs team, but the production needs to be spread around more. Kane, DeBrincat, and Dominik Kubalik carried the majority of the scoring for the team, and the third and fourth lines did not help much. The best teams have players who can score on all four lines and an incredibly talented first line. The Blackhawks’ depth scoring needs to be improved to make them a more dangerous team. However, the Blackhawks should be proud of what they’ve accomplished this year, and the fans should be excited looking forward to seasons to come.
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