The Blackhawks did it to us again!

The team's playoff chances had a nail driven in them after a disappointing weekend against the Red Wings and Blues

Hello, frents!

It’s Mark Grace (and Ken Griffey Jr.) days until Opening Day.

Let’s go out and have a great week.

Fool us 23 times over three seasons …

Shame on us.

I know I said in Friday’s newsletter that it was still too early to get really hopeful about the Hawks’ slightly-increased playoff chances. That there were still too many teams in front of them for a wild card spot. That they’d need a lot more than the four straight wins they’d strung together.

But that doesn’t mean I listened to my own advice! Despite what I wrote, I went into Friday night’s game assuming the Hawks would pick up two points from a historically-bad Red Wings team and then come home to a fired-up crowd for a nationally-televised rivalry game against the Blues.

If they won that? Well, I let my mind wander …

That, of course, was a terribly dumb move on my part. Because any dreams we might have harbored about the Hawks doing the Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania V comeback didn’t even make it out of the Motor City. The team couldn’t earn a single point in the standings after a 2-1 loss to the Red Wings and then it came home and was shut out by the Blues at home for the second time this season.

Nail. Fat lady. Goose.

For the third straight season, the Hawks are going to miss the playoffs.

It’s a fact I now accept fully and without qualification. There are 13 games left this season and the Hawks currently sit six points out with five teams in front of them. The chances were slim even before this weekend and now they’re almost nil.

Now if you want to squint and try to imagine a world where the Hawks pull off that leg drop, here are the standings, go ahead. Knock yourself out. The Hawks will be talking a similar game until they’re mathematically eliminated.

But not me. The Hawks could win their next 10 and I still wouldn’t be convinced until we heard the opening notes of the anthem before Game 3 of the first round.

Over the past three seasons, we’ve seen the Hawks put together good stretches that made it seem like they’d finally put it together. But each time, they’ve fallen through that trap door before any of the really good parts could be written.

This past week and weekend was no different.

The fact is that we’ve been spoiled. The playoffs were a foregone conclusion in every Hawks season from 2009 to 2017, a time when the only thing the franchise racked up easier than points and playoff appearances were Stanley Cups.

But this is obviously not then. It’s a fact that’s often hard to remember because the three Cup runs are still so fresh in our minds. For those teams, going into Detroit to beat up on a hapless Wings squad and then coming home to take care of the Blues wasn’t as much a question as it was a certainty. Because of that, it’s easy to assume a team led by the same stars in 2020 will have a similarly easy time with that task.

But five years since the last title, this is a different organization. The top of the team is filled with stars who are five years older and carry expensive contracts. Those deals prevent building any sort of solid middle class between the championship core and the more cost-effective youngsters who are supposed to carry the Hawks into the next era.

It’s those same contracts that will likely put the Hawks in a similar situation next year.  The team that turned speed and youth into a dynasty has become one of the teams it used to skate around. Good on some nights. Bad on others. Average on most.

But if and when next year’s Hawks team makes a late run and you start to think about the playoffs being a possibility,  try and remember that we’ve been here before.

And that we’ve seen how it ends.

Sunday’s results

Blues 2, Blackhawks 0

Illinois 78, Iowa 76
Great finish to the regular season for the Illini, who needed this win for the fourth seed and a double bye in the Big Ten tournament. There’s a good shot they’ll be facing fifth-seeded Iowa again on Friday in Indy. Here’s the entire bracket.

Nets 110, Bulls 107
Brooklyn fired its coach and won its next game. Just saying.

Spring training
Sox (SS) 5, Royals 4
Sox (SS) 6, Padres 0
Yasmani Grandal went 1-for-3 and hit a RBI double in his first AB for the Sox, Reynaldo Lopez was solid, striking out five and allowing no runs over 4.1 innings of work

D-backs 8, Cubs (SS) 1
Reds (SS) 11, Cubs (SS) 9
Jose Quintana was rusty and Craig Kimbrel gave up his second home run in as many appearances. But … it’s still spring training. Enjoy Kris Bryant being low-key hilarious again while wearing an on-field mic.

Today’s schedule

Spring training
Reds at Sox (3:05,
Cubs — Off day

Have a link for a future Midway Minute? Email me

• Just in time for the tournament: The Rivers Casino sports book is scheduled to open at noon today and will take the first legal bet in state history. (Daily Herald)

Bradley is headed back to the NCAA tournament after winning the MVC tournament as a four seed this weekend. It’s the first time the team has made back-to-back trips since the mid-50s. (College Basketball News)

Steve Greenberg on why the Illini need to relish Sunday’s big win. (Sun-Times)

For now, MLB plans to start the season on time without any games played in front of empty stadiums. (The Athletic)

• Jason Benetti singing the Nationwide jingle for over a minute was the most entertaining part of Sunday’s Bulls game. (Bulls Talk)

• On the list of cool lines you can have in an obituary, “introduced the Beatles at Comiskey” is up there. RIP Clark Weber. (Tribune)

• The Fire took a point from a well-earned draw in Orlando on Saturday. For the first time in a long while, Patrick McCraney is excited about the team. (Hot Time in Old Town)

The complicated reputation of Richard’s Bar. (If Josh Noel is writing about beer or bars in Chicago, I’m reading it.) (Tribune)

Michael Kopech currently has better odds (3/1) to win the AL rookie of the year than Luis Robert (5/1) (NBC Sports)

• FYI: If you watch this at work, you will end up crying at work.

But you still gotta watch it.

Both happy and sad tears over here after watching the video and reading Bob Verdi’s column. What a tribute. What a couple.

Make sure you kiss somebody you love today.