Sunday, May 19, 2024

Primary Guilty Parties In Blackhawks’ Ugly Meltdown Wednesday May Have Cost Themselves Chance At NHL Jobs

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For the Blackhawks to finish Wednesday’s game with the scoreboard showing a 5-2 loss was likely a divinely inspired miracle. By the time seven minutes had passed in the first period, Chicago was staring at a 4-0 deficit. In perhaps the worst possible start for the team, starting goaltender Petr Mrazek was pulled from the game after giving up three goals on the first three shots he saw. Arvid Soderblom came in at the 4:37 mark and promptly gave up another. Still, the loss was far from the fault of the players between the pipes.

Wednesday’s beatdown can’t be attributed to one or two players – the entire team forgot to show up until the middle frame. Still, it wasn’t a great look for two veteran defensemen to be utterly embarrassed in one of the most important games of their aging careers. Yes, the contest didn’t mean much for the Blackhawks as a team, but for Jarred Tinordi and Nikita Zaitsev, it could have huge implications for free agency this summer.

Nikita Zaitsev

With a simple glance at the box score, it’s clear Zaitsev didn’t have his best game. With a plus-minus of -3, he also took a penalty in 16 minutes of ice time. He made up one-half of the embarrassing first goal, allowing Jordan Kyrou to essentially walk down the middle of the ice and score. He was also on the ice for the Blues’ fourth and fifth goals, though not necessarily directly at fault.

Jarred Tinordi

Tinordi was slightly better than his linemate at -2 (despite also taking a penalty), but his was perhaps the tougher game of the two to swallow. He was primarily responsible for the first goal and also contributed to allowing the third. After the Blues made it 3-0, Tinordi expressed his frustration, picking a fight with his celebrating opponents. Tinordi logged less than 15 minutes of ice time.

Outlook

Nobody expected anything extraordinary from the third-line pairing of Zaitsev and Tinordi, but they also weren’t expected to perform this badly. While the primary reason young blueliner Wyatt Kaiser was sent to the AHL was to give him valuable playoff experience, it was also a great chance for the Blackhawks to do right by their two veterans, giving them late-season playing time before they inevitably hit free agency this summer. In doing so, Zaitsev and Tinordi were given the opportunity to prove they still belong on an NHL roster somewhere after rather poor seasons, even by Chicago’s low standards.

In Wednesday’s game, though, the two squandered it. Instead of proving their worth, they picked a poor time to be the noticeably worst players on the ice. Will it cost them NHL spots next year? The answer is unclear. Perhaps they didn’t have those spots locked up to begin with. It’s often pointless to overreact to one poor performance, but this was a pretty big blown opportunity for the pair of veterans.

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