CHICAGO – It’s not over till the standings say it’s official, and that didn’t happen on Saturday night.
But it’s very safe to say that the Blackhawks are on the brink when it comes to missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite a pair of comebacks, the Blackhawks couldn’t get a lead against the Panthers at home on Saturday night in a 5-4 loss at the United Center. That defeat coupled with a 1-0 win by the Predators over the Stars now puts them eight points ahead of Jeremy Colliton’s team with five games to play.
While they do have one more game left in the season than Nashville, it’s safe to say that Saturday’s loss has made the postseason a distant hope for this upstart Blackhawks’ team that was a surprise since the start of the season.
Basically, one more Predators win or another Blackhawks loss and that’s it.
But inconsistency plagued the team at times all year, and it’s shown up especially down the stretch where the chance for the postseason has slowly faded. Over the last week, the team is 0-3-1, a record that likely sealed their playoff fate as they look towards their final days of the season.
Saturday was another example of the team not being able to avoid letdowns in stretches, as Florida jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. Late in the second, the Blackhawks got the game tied with goals from Connor Murphy and Alex DeBrincat within 53 seconds of each other.
But then they surrendered a goal with just under a minute left in the period to Aleksander Barkov to fall behind. In the first minute of the third, former Blackhawks forward Anthony Duclair got his second goal of the game then got on the board again when Owen Tippett turned a turnover from the home team into a score to make it 5-2.
Goals by Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik weren’t in time to save the game and, more dramatically, a season. Behind by eight points with just five games left, the chances of playing hockey into the end of May are looking slimmer by the game.