I've been in a glass case of emotion in the last week or so.
I thought I knew what's best for the Blackhawks for the future and that was to lose this series, get that high draft pick, and continue to stock up through the draft.
Full transparency, I love the draft, and I think it's the best way to build a successful team for the long-term.
After the first 3 games of this series and what I'm seeing, now I have identified an outcome that could be even more beneficial for the future for these Blackhawks.
I will get to that in a minute, first, I wanted to touch on a few thoughts from this series:
* Kirby Dach – Ummm… what a manimal this guy is. I believe one of the main X-Factors that Mark Kelley and the Blackhawks scouts liked in Kirby's game when they decided to select him 3rd overall was his ability to step up in the playoffs.
Kelley and Bowman mentioned after the draft that they watch Dach's playoff performance in Saskatoon in 2019 and after speaking with him in person, they could tell he's the kind of player that loves to play this style and elevates his game during this time.
Dach played 23 minutes – most of any Hawks forward – on Wednesday. He's come a long way since the start of NHL career and has taken it to the next level already in – what is technically – his first season. This guy is going to be a beast and this extra time has helped his confidence as well as help the Hawks make some decisions this offseason.
* Strome and Nylander – I've lumped these 2 together as they have failed to have an impact in this series. Strome has been relegated to the 3rd line and is showing that he may not be built for playoff hockey. He's struggled defensively and with his speed at times.
Nylander has been ok and did have a better game on Wednesday, however, I've been waiting (and waiting) for this guy to take the step and make some sort of dent in the Hawks offense. He looked great in camp but he just can't seem to make it translate into real games.
We'll see what Colliton does with that line; does he leave Caggiula or try to put DeBrincat and Strome together? Whatever happens, the Hawks need 3 lines that can push the play offensively and they don't have that right now.
* 4th Line Redemption – The line of Kampf, Carpenter, and Highmore were slated to be a topic of discussion in a negative way until Highmore redeemed himself with the game-tying goal last game.
Overall, they have been playing as well as they could considering they have been going up against Connor McDavid and/or Leon Draisiatl.
I suspect Highmore will clean his game up defensively and review those gaffs he had and that line will get back to doing it's thang again on Friday night.
* Corey Crawford – It looks like #50 needs to be "good enough" in this series. He's been getting better each game and that's a bad sign for the Oilers. Outside of the power play, Edmonton has struggled to get a lot going on 5-on-5 on a consistent basis in this series.
Now on to the main subject of today's blog; I call it Future vs. Swagger.
If the Blackhawks lose this series, they will have a shot at the 1st overall pick.
That's good, but it's only a 12.5% chance that they get that pick.
More likely, they will be either the 9th or 10th overall. That puts them in the Alexander Holtz, Cole Perfetti, or Yaroslav Askarov category.
A player at that 9th/10th spot would be a very, very nice building block for the future.
However, if the Hawks win this play-in round, they are looking like 16th-20-something overall pick. That puts them in the spot of a Connor Zary, Rodion Amirov, or Dylan Holloway (whom I actually really like); this is still a real nice player.
Regardless of the drop of talent from let's say 9th to 16th, I think the pros far outweigh the cons of the Hawks moving on.
The biggest reason I say that is that the Blackhawks are finding their swagger. They have been learning and growing game-by-game; whether it's a blow out win, a spanking, or a relentless come from behind victory, they are coming together as a team.
This play-in series is helping management find out what they have in this team. What they have is a kid named Kirby Dach who's surpassing Dylan Strome. The latter is an RFA as we know and the way things are going he is driving his value slightly down.
We're seeing how valuable a guy like Drake Caggiula is. Will he be resigned? He brings a game that is made for the playoffs.
Slater Koekkoek and Olli Maatta have been a bit of a rollercoaster, however, they have been contributing on the offensive end.
Management is witnessing the making of a shutdown 4th line in David Kampf, Ryan Carpenter, and Matthew Highmore.
For better or for worse (financially), they are seeing Dominik Kubalik's value rise.
And best of all, the core is still performing at a high level as they have regained that playoff mojo.
It's been great to watch and win or lose this series, the Hawks have been learning a lot about themselves for now and for the future.
This swagger and comradery will last for years to come as the Hawks regroup and find their confidence as a franchise again.
Regardless of my rollercoaster feelings, make no mistake, the second the puck dropped, I was cheering for this team to win - I can't not root for them.
Now, I feel even better about them shooting for the stars as they enter a game 4 where they could be moving on to the "next round" at the end of this.
Let's go Hawks and looking forward to this game 4 tonight.