Saturday night’s contest between the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators served as the first official game post-trade deadline for both clubs, with both of them heading in similar directions. The Predators are looking to re-tool their roster as they are out of the playoff picture this year, and “forever-GM” David Poile is set to retire to make way for incoming GM Barry Trotz. The Blackhawks, well, they are nose-diving this season in hopes of landing the best odds to draft first overall in this year’s NHL Draft. But you knew that.
With no Jonathan Toews and no Patrick Kane, the star power for the Blackhawks is all but gone. Except for Seth Jones, who took just 37 seconds to remind everyone that he is, in fact, still here. Jones scored his eighth goal of the season to put Chicago up 1-0 early on the Predators. Nashville would answer back mid-way through the opening period thanks to Philip Tomasino’s second goal of the season. Newly acquired Tyson Barrie would put the Predators up 2-1 in the second period, and a late third-period empty-net goal from Colton Sissons sealed the game for Nashville at 3-1.
With the loss, the Blackhawks fall to 21-36-5 with 47 points in the standings. They are last in the Central Division, last in the Western Conference, and second-to-last in the NHL, ahead of only the Columbus Blue Jackets by one point in the standings.
There are 20 games left this season.
Greg’s Hit: High Expectations for Andreas Athanasiou Going Forward
Back on July 13, Andreas Athanasiou and Max Domi signed matching one-year contracts worth $3 million. Many thought, including the three of us, that this duo was signed to be flipped for assets at the deadline. Domi was moved on Thursday to the Dallas Stars, but Athanasiou remained in Chicago after the trade deadline passed Friday afternoon.
Athanasiou had been playing well heading into the deadline, with two goals in his last three games. However, it didn’t seem that there was much trade talk surrounding him. Now that the deadline has come and gone, head coach Luke Richardson wants the 28-year-old veteran to focus on his game for the remaining 20 games.
“We want a little more consistency,” Richardson said. “I think there are times where he really showed dominance and speed. And then there are times when he gets frustrated and down on himself. We are trying to keep him positive.
“I thought he had a really good game in the last game. He really took a step like we wanted him to. We want him to continue in that fashion. He’s got a great shot and needs to shoot a little more. Also, he’s been around for a while, so we’re counting on his leadership the rest of the year with losing some of that in the trades.”
Even though Richardson wants him to shoot more, it took Athanasiou just 37 seconds to land on the scoresheet Saturday. He spotted Jones breaking to the net and served him up a nice backhand pass for the game’s opening goal.
Athanasiou wasn’t as aggressive with the puck as Richardson wanted him to be. He had three shot attempts all night, with just one finding the target. His line with Lukas Reichel and Philipp Kurashev generated some quality chances early but fell off as the game went on.
Jay’s Hit: Speaking of Nashville…
I know there are a lot of people who are upset with the Blackhawks’ direction. Rebuilds can be long and hard (nice) and aren’t guaranteed to work, but the Nashville Predators are a good example of what happens when you only do it halfway.
Does Nashville make the playoffs? Usually.
Are they ever a threat to win the Stanley Cup? No. Not really.
Aside from making the Cup Final in 2017 (a six-game loss to the Penguins), they’ve won one playoff series, despite making the postseason every season since. This is what the Blackhawks did from basically 1962 to 1997 when they had the league’s longest consecutive playoff streak with zero Stanley Cups to show for it. Because of the condition the last regime left things, Kyle Davidson and his crew have no other choice than to fully rebuild. I’ve asked dozens of times for an alternative that will get the Blackhawks back to competing for Stanley Cups, and I’ve yet to even get a response, let alone a valid solution. If you have one, let us know. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mario’s Hit: Anders Bjork Getting Major Opportunity with Blackhawks
The final 21 games of this season seemingly have little to offer Blackhawks fans as far as entertainment value and a look into the future of the team. But that is not the case for the players on the ice. Just like this time last year, there are a number of players getting an opportunity with these Blackhawks that they were not going to get with their previous clubs. Could there be another version of Taylor Raddysh or Sam Lafferty in this new group?
That’s what guys like Joey Anderson, Andreas Englund, and Anders Bjork are trying to accomplish.
For Bjork, he made his Blackhawks debut tonight in the 3-1 loss, but the result was likely secondary to him in his first game with the team that he called a dream to play for during Saturday’s morning skate.
“It’s my dream team to play for. Excited to get to work and prove the player I can be.”
Bjork was born in Mequon, Wisconsin (outside of Milwaukee), and played his early junior hockey years with the Chicago Mission before joining the U.S. Development Program and then playing three seasons at Notre Dame. Safe to say, given his age and proximity to the club, he has fond memories of the two guys who have recently left the Blackhawks locker room, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
He wouldn’t answer if he was or wasn’t a Packers fan, though.
Coming from the Buffalo Sabres organization, where he spent nearly all of this season in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, Bjork has been up and down from the NHL to the AHL his entire professional career. Being acquired by Chicago gives him the chance he wasn’t going to get with the Sabres this year.
“That’s my situation, so it’s an incredible opportunity for me. I was in the minors, so now I get a chance to show that I can play in the NHL, redefine myself, and reinvent myself. Every player wants that once their career hasn’t gone the way that they would like.” Bjork said during Saturday’s morning skate.
His speed and penalty-killing abilities were the first things that Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson noticed in his scouting of Bjork, and that’s the same way he was used tonight, filling in the role on the third line along with Jason Dickinson and MacKenzie Entwistle that Sam Lafferty was leaving behind. He’s even wearing Lafferty’s No. 24.
Bjork finished with no points or shots in his first Blackhawks game, blocking one shot, creating one scoring chance, and playing 16:05 minutes of ice time, 2:31 minutes short-handed. For his first game in the NHL since earlier this season on November 16, and having only one morning skate with his new team before making his debut, it was a fine performance.