Fueled by fans at home in the United Center for the first time this season, the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t disappoint on Sunday, defeating the Dallas Stars 4-2 before a crowd of 3,820.
As the two teams face off in the same venue Monday in the regular-season finale for both, Chicago will aim for a similar result while hopefully satisfying a few thousand more customers.
“It was such a huge difference right from the anthem,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “You couldn’t help but smile when you heard the reaction from the crowd. As the home team you really feed off that energy. We’ve missed that this year.”
After a fast start to the season that had the reloading Blackhawks primed for a potential playoff run, Chicago (24-25-6, 54 points) will miss the playoffs, but still can secure a .500 finish with a victory Monday.
The Blackhawks have won two in a row on the heels of a six-game losing streak that vastly reversed their fortunes over the final two weeks of the season.
Alex DeBrincat scored twice to key Sunday’s win and enters Monday with 31 goals, third in the league.
“He’s a dynamic player at both ends of the rink,” Colliton said. “He continues to do things away from the puck that puts himself in position to produce offensively.”
While Dallas, the Stanley Cup Final runner-up a season ago, will not be skating for another chance at the Cup during this postseason, Stars coach Rick Bowness nonetheless has lauded the team’s toughness and effort as the season reaches the finish line.
The Stars (22-19-14, 58 points) absorbed injuries to several key players and endured eight postponements as the evolving COVID-19 pandemic impacted the NHL season.
Still, Dallas remained in playoff contention until the final weekend of the regular season, being mathematically eliminated when Nashville clinched the No. 4 seed in the Central Division on Saturday night.
“This team has played very hard all year,” Bowness said. “We’re very proud of the way these guys have competed. With what we’ve had to face in terms of schedule and injuries and constant shuffling of lineup, this team has played very, very hard, and they played very hard for each other.”
Although Bowness elected to shut down Tyler Seguin and Roope Hintz for the final two regular-season games as the both deal with respective lower-body injuries, fellow veteran Joe Pavelski has shined down the stretch as he completes his first season with the club.
The winger is threatening to surpass his career-best points-per-game average of 0.96 established in 2013-14 with San Jose, with whom Pavelski played the first 13 seasons of his career. His average this season is 0.91.
“He figured out a way to help this team the best,” Bowness said. “We all know from the circles down, he’s elite. He knows how to get open, he knows where to put his stick for deflections, he knows how to roll off of checks and get a shot away, he knows how stand off to the side of the net when there’s nothing coming to the front because it’s all blocked off. He has that offensive knack.”
–Field Level Media