Chicago Blackhawks: Playoff chase

Hawks earn No. 6 playoff seed

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
3:06
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- The Chicago Blackhawks' shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday earned them a No. 6 seed and a first-round playoff matchup with the winner of the Pacific Division, which will be determined later Saturday night.

Despite losing the game, the Red Wings will be the No. 5 seed, finishing the season with 102 points to the Blackhawks' 101. The Hawks were 47 seconds away from a regulation win -- and one more point in the standings -- which would have earned them the No. 5 seed by virtue of a tiebreaker. Instead, the Red Wings will play the No. 4 seed Nashville Predators in the opening round.

Read the entire story.

Playoff update: Four potential foes

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
10:45
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- All 30 NHL teams will be in action on the final day of the regular season Saturday and, finally, the playoff picture will be set. The only game on Friday that affected the Western Conference race saw the Phoenix Coyotes beating the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, vaulting the Coyotes back into first place -- and the No. 3 seed -- in the Pacific Division.

Here are the playoff scenarios facing the Chicago Blackhawks as they take on the Detroit Red Wings Saturday afternoon. Keep in mind the first tie-breaker is total non-shootout wins by each club and the second tie-breaker is total points earned in the head-to-head series between the two teams.

If the Hawks beat the Wings in regulation:

The Hawks will earn the No. 5 seed by virtue of the second tie-breaker. Both Chicago and Detroit will have 101 points and 39 non-shootout victories but the Hawks will have more points in the head-to-head season series so they would earn the No. 5 seed and would play Nashville in the opening round of the playoffs. That series would begin in Nashville on either Wednesday or Thursday.

If the Hawks beat the Wings in overtime or a shootout OR lose to Detroit:

Chicago will be the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and play the winner of the Pacific Division to be determined later on Saturday.

(Read full post)

Hawks' playoff position hinges on last game

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
8:29
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
DETROIT -- The Chicago Blackhawks tried to make their case on Friday for playing to win on Saturday in their regular-season finale against the Detroit Red Wings.

“Our focus will be to play the right way,” Jamal Mayers said after the final regular-season practice of the year in Detroit. “We want to play the right way and get ready for the playoffs.”

No one will argue with that, but plenty have argued whether the Hawks should truly want to win Saturday’s game -- at least in regulation -- and overtake the Detroit Red Wings for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference. If that happens, the Hawks would take on the Nashville Predators in the opening round of the playoffs. A loss or overtime game means the Hawks will face the Pacific Division winner. Currently the Predators have eight more points than the Pacific-leading Los Angeles Kings.

[+] EnlargeBlackhawks vs Predators
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesCould the Predators be a tougher matchup for the Blackhawks than the Kings?
So with a win on Saturday, the Hawks technically would play a “better” team in the playoffs than they would with a loss on Saturday. The top three seeds -- regardless of points -- go to the three division winners.

“You can say those sort of things and think that, but once you get on the ice it’s still Chicago/Detroit,” defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. “If you’re looking to win the whole thing, you have to beat everyone anyway. So do you drop to sixth and play a team with lesser points but with a three or four hour flight back and forth, or do you play Nashville, where it’s easier?”

Several Hawks mentioned the shorter flight to Nashville as a reason to want to win on Saturday. At the same time, they understand the differences in the teams.

“The No. 3 seed is a team that had a worse season than us and knowing that will probably give us some more confidence,” Viktor Stalberg said. “But sometimes it’s tough for traveling. It’s kind of a coin toss. We’re feeling good about our game.”

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Hawks persevere, clinch playoff spot

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
11:59
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
The Chicago Blackhawks clinched a berth in the postseason with a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, but like everything else this year they didn’t make things easy on themselves. After the Hawks built a 4-0 lead, Nashville stormed back to tie it in the third period.

Who said it was supposed to be easy?

[+] EnlargeCorey Crawford
John Russell/NHLI/Getty ImagesBlackhawks goalie Corey Crawford blocks a shot as the Predators' Patric Hornqvist skates in.
The Hawks played the last quarter of the season without their best player and, in fact, shocked the hockey world by getting into a position to battle for home-ice advantage in the opening round. They’ve gone 12-5-2 without Jonathan Toews and now 2-1-1 without Duncan Keith. That’s more than just a little impressive.

“We really helped ourselves during a tough stretch there,” coach Joel Quenneville told reporters after the game. “When you looked at our schedule and you looked at our opponents, the position we were in at that time, things turned around in a nice way. … Obviously a huge win tonight to clinch it.”

The “position the Hawks were in at the time” was precarious. It wasn’t long after they broke their nine-game losing streak that Toews left the lineup. They were thin at center and so Patrick Kane took over on the top line. His play, along with the addition of Johnny Oduya on the blue line, helped make the postseason a reality.

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Rapid Reaction: Hawks 5, Predators 4

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
10:12
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


A quick look at how the Chicago Blackhawks pulled out a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

How it happened: A crazy night went the Hawks’ way when Andrew Shaw found a pinching Brent Seabrook for the winning goal midway through the third period. It was a perfect back-hand pass and helped ease the pain of the Hawks blowing a 4-0 lead. Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland scored power-play goals followed by a Patrick Kane mini breakaway tally. Then Viktor Stalberg finished a nice rush by banking one in off of Predators goalie Pekka Rinne. It was Stalberg’s 20th goal of the season. But Nashville responded with four straight goals of their own between the second and third periods, including two on the power play and two by Shea Weber. Nashville had all the momentum until Shaw found Seabrook to avoid a heart-breaking defeat.

What it means: The Hawks are in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, but they didn’t make it easy on themselves. Playing the night before didn’t stop Nashville from outplaying the Hawks in the second half of the contest, but another big goal late in a game by Seabrook was the difference. The Hawks’ power play was much better getting pucks on net from the outset. But problems in front of Corey Crawford continue. With Weber, and others, blasting away from the point there was too much traffic in front of the Hawks goal. And no one was putting a body on them. It’s something that needs to be fixed before the playoffs, if it can be at this point. It’s still a good enough road win, despite the near collapse, and the Hawks will play on into mid-April as they improved to 44-26-9.

Playoffs: The Hawks are in and tied Detroit in points with their 97th, but remain the No. 6 seed at the moment due to a tiebreaker. The Hawks have played one more game than Detroit and have three games remaining in the regular season.

What’s next: The Hawks return to Chicago for a Sunday evening contest against the Minnesota Wild.

Playoff update: Hawks can clinch berth

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
12:19
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Every day between now and the end of the regular season I'll update you on the playoff race as it relates to the Blackhawks.

Though the standings at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race tightened after Wednesday's action, the Blackhawks have a chance at clinching a playoff berth on Thursday night when they host the St. Louis Blues.

A win by Chicago coupled by a loss, in regulation, later in the evening by Phoenix would mean the Hawks could finish no worse than 8th in the conference, assuring them of a fourth consecutive playoff appearance.

"It's a little bit different situation than last year, fortunately," Viktor Stalberg said Thursday morning. "It would be nice to clinch it and play a couple more games with a little less pressure, maybe."

Last year the Hawks had to wait until the final game played in the NHL before backing into the playoffs. Their No. 6 seed is still in doubt though. With wins by Dallas and Los Angeles on Wednesday, those teams closed the gap on the Hawks though a loss by San Jose didn't help the Sharks move up. In fact they lost their lead in the Pacific Division. If the postseason started today the Hawks would take on the Dallas Stars, the new current leaders of the Pacific.

Losses won't necessarily hurt Hawks

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
10:42
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- If you’re a diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan, the scenario must have run through your mind not long after the suspension of defenseman Duncan Keith was announced.

You wanted a glass half-full thought about the Hawks in a down moment and so here it was: The most fatigued Hawk over the last few seasons is getting five games off right before the playoffs.

His return with two games remaining in the regular season could very well coincide with the much anticipated return of captain Jonathan Toews from a concussion -- that is, if Toews doesn’t experience any more setbacks. If nothing else, Toews will have fresh legs for the potential two-month postseason.

(Read full post)

Power rankings: Hawks stick at No. 8

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
6:47
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Despite a good run without captain Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks remained No. 8 in ESPN.com’s weekly power rankings released on Monday. It’s the same position they held a week earlier.

Solid wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks were apparently negated by a disastrous 6-1 defeat to the Nashville Predators on Sunday. Even so, only one team, the Boston Bruins, passed the Hawks in the rankings. Boston moved from No. 12 to No. 7.

And for the first time in months the Hawks were ahead of the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit dropped to No. 9 from No. 7 based on a stretch of losing 8 of 9 before beating the Carolina Hurricanes over the weekend. The St. Louis Blues and Nashville are still the cream of the Central Division as they hold the No. 2 and No. 4 spots, respectively, in the rankings.

At the beginning of the season it would have been hard to imagine the Blues and Predators ahead of the Hawks and Red Wings with just two weeks remaining in the season, but that’s how the rankings look as teams are down to just a handful of games. The Hawks still have a chance at home-ice advantage in the first round which would undoubtedly put them ahead of both Nashville and Detroit.

They passed one rival, but can they pass another one? Nashville is 4-1 against the Hawks this season and that home ice, along with the final pre-playoffs rankings, might come down to their series finale on Saturday.

Playoff update: Hawks sitting at No. 6

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
6:35
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Every morning between now and the end of the regular season I’ll update the playoff picture as it pertains to the Chicago Blackhawks:

Sunday’s 6-1 loss to the Nashville Predators wasn’t devastating in terms of the Hawks making the playoffs, but it was a blow in terms of moving up from the No. 6 seed. The Predators are now four points ahead of the Hawks while Detroit remains three points ahead. Nashville took over the No. 4 seed with their win over Chicago.

So the Hawks remain firmly as the No. 6 seed, five points ahead of No. 7 Phoenix, who lost 4-0 to St. Louis on Sunday. The Hawks also have a game in hand and are six points ahead of ninth-place San Jose. If the playoffs started today Chicago would open on the road against the No. 3 seed Dallas Stars. The Hawks have five more points than Dallas, but as the Pacific Division leader the Stars get home ice advantage.

Monday is a busy day for the Western Conference playoff picture. The Detroit Red Wings have played one fewer game than the Hawks and they host the Columbus Blue Jackets, the cellar dweller of the West.

Three Pacific teams vying for the playoffs are in action as Dallas plays in Calgary, Los Angeles is in Vancouver and San Jose hosts Colorado. Four teams in that division are separated by a single point, meaning if the playoffs opened tomorrow the No. 6 seeded Hawks could have a different opponent than they would as of today. Count on that kind of back-and-forth for the final two weeks of the season.

Hawks will get shot to defend Cup

April, 10, 2011
4/10/11
7:45
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
It took all 82 regular-season games, but the Chicago Blackhawks will get the opportunity to defend their Stanley Cup championship.

The Hawks lost to the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3 on Sunday afternoon but still claimed the final playoff berth, backing into the postseason thanks to the Minnesota Wild’s 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars later in the evening.

“I’ve never been more excited in a hockey game in my life that I didn’t participate in,” a jubilant Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on a conference call with reporters. “I was acting like a 2-year-old. Maybe a 3-, 4-, or 5-year-old celebrating his birthday. It was unbelievable. I was shocked the way the whole game unfolded.”

The Hawks will take on the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs beginning Wednesday at 9 pm CST. Vancouver has home-ice advantage in the best-of-seven series as the top seed in the conference. The Hawks are the No. 8 seed.

“We know against Vancouver we have to be special, we have to be great,” Quenneville said. “I think the enthusiasm of making the playoffs after what we had to overcome throughout the year should be something we take forward. Anything can happen. All the teams are comparably even.”

The Hawks avoided becoming the fifth team since expansion in 1967 to miss the playoffs the year after winning the Stanley Cup. Their rollercoaster year began when management was forced to gut their championship roster due to salary cap constraints. Moved out were playoff heroes Dustin Byfuglien and Antti Niemi, along with eight other players.

The Hawks failed to gain traction with the new roster, never winning more than four in a row until an eight-game winning streak late in the season. That run set them up to control their own destiny in the final weeks while dealing with injuries to forwards Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland, although in the end they still needed help from the Wild to reach the playoffs. Rookie goalie Corey Crawford picked up where Niemi left off and is in the discussion for Rookie of the Year behind his 33 wins.

“Getting in was everything and now the fun begins,” Quenneville said.

Chicago split the four-game season series with the Canucks with each team winning one on the road.

The Hawks are hopeful defensive whiz Bolland is available to them for the series. Bolland is recovering from a concussion suffered on March 9.

“We’ll continue to monitor,” Quenneville said. “It’s been positive recently. It was a tough road over the last month or so, but things changed quickly. I don’t have anything more to report or prognosticate, but we hope that he’s able to be a part of the first round. Hopefully early.”

The Hawks will take Monday off to fly to Vancouver before practicing on Tuesday in advance of Game 1 Wednesday night.

Hawks' last chance to win playoff berth

April, 9, 2011
4/09/11
10:50
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Sixteen teams make the playoffs in the NHL, and as of Saturday night, 15 have clinched the right to play on next week. The final playoff berth will be determined Sunday and it’s going to the Chicago Blackhawks or the Dallas Stars. That much we know.

“We’re the only team playing all 82 with a huge purpose behind ‘em,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after a short practice Saturday. “That has to be our focus. We haven’t had an easy game all year so we don’t expect one more.”

[+] EnlargeJoel Quenneville
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesIt's all come down to the last day of the season for coach Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks.
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t exactly make it difficult in Game 81, and judging from their tone, they’re going to change that come Sunday afternoon at the United Center.

“Listen, we haven’t played well for a while here consistently,” Wings forward Dan Cleary said after Friday’s 4-2 defeat. “We’ve got to find a way. We’ve got a big game Sunday and we’ve just got to come out and try to have some good steps and have some good periods and get ready for [the] playoffs.”

But the Hawks are at home, where they should feel the playoff atmosphere that will undoubtedly be in the building. They haven’t always used the home crowd to their advantage, though Wednesday’s win over the St. Louis Blues was fan-driven after a favorable call by the officials.

“It’s our job to use them because they’re just going to be looking for an excuse to get excited and it’s our job to get them going right away,” Jake Dowell said.

Slow starts at home have been the norm as often as fast ones this season. Most players agreed this isn’t a game you want to have to play in comeback mode. That leads to tight play, which leads to mistakes.

“We’ve played a lot of big games this year, especially the last little stretch,” goaltender Corey Crawford said. “It’s nothing new for us. It’s a lot better deciding our own fate instead of worrying about someone else.”

The only difference: This one has a win-or-go-home mentality, much like a postseason Game 7. The Hawks do have a chance to back in if they lose, but they’re not hearing any of that.

“If we play like we did Friday, we have a good chance of taking care of business,” Brian Campbell said. “I know Dallas is going win their game. We have to take care of our business.”

As for nerves, there’s no avoiding them no matter how many big games they’ve been through.

“I’m sure I’ll be a little nervous,” Crawford said. “Friday was a little nervous going into the first period. That’s only normal I think.”

Nervous is fine, tight is not. The best thing going for the Hawks in a situation like this is leadership and poise. Experience doesn’t hurt, either. It should allow for at least a close game, which is exactly what the Hawks need.

Quenneville knows a point gets his team into the postseason, and though he said, “You play to win the game,” is there any doubt he’ll coach to the situation if it’s tied in the third period?

One game to determine if they get to defend their title. It’s not the script anyone would have written, but it provides for a dramatic ending.

Just how the Hawks like it.

Injury update

  • Tomas Kopecky had Saturday off after taking a puck to the head in Friday’s game. Patrick Sharp took the day off as well to rest his left knee. Quenneville said both are fine.

  • Dave Bolland had a light practice with the team, but he hasn’t been cleared for contact.

  • Troy Brouwer is still day-to-day with a shoulder injury suffered in Montreal on Tuesday, although Quenneville said, “he’s not close to [skating] right now.”

    Slappers

  • Expect the same lineup that beat the Wings handily on Friday to be on the ice for Sunday’s regular-season finale.

  • Game time is 11:30 a.m. to accommodate NBC-TV.
  • Playoff update: Stars within 2 of Hawks

    April, 8, 2011
    4/08/11
    11:03
    AM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    DETROIT -- Everyday between now and the end of the regular season I’ll update you on the playoff race as it relates to the Chicago Blackhawks.

    At this rate the Colorado Avalanche might have a hard time getting by a team in the Frozen Four. The Dallas Stars beat the Avalanche 4-2 on Thursday to draw within two points of the eighth-seeded Blackhawks in the Western Conference playoff race. Both teams have two games remaining on their schedule.

    The Hawks play in Detroit on Friday while the Stars and Avalanche face off in Colorado to complete a home and home set. Chicago can clinch a playoff spot Friday night if one of the following scenarios takes place:

  • The Hawks win and the Stars lose in regulation or overtime.

    OR

  • The Hawks lose in overtime and the Stars lose in regulation.

  • The Hawks win in regulation or overtime -- but not in a shootout -- while the Stars win in a shootout. This would give the Hawks the edge in the first tie-breaker if the teams tie in points after Sunday’s regular season finale. Don’t count on the Avalanche for help. They’ve beaten one playoff contender since Jan. 18 and have one win overall in their last eight games.
  • Taking stock of all that drama

    April, 7, 2011
    4/07/11
    2:51
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive


    The drama over the past few days is supposed to be saved for the postseason, isn’t it? But these Chicago Blackhawks don’t do things without some nail-biting, teeth-clenching moments. Let’s review some storylines:

    [+] EnlargeJonathan Toews
    Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesJonathan Toews reacts after scoring the winning goal against the Blues on Wednesday.
  • Jonathan Toews “redeemed” himself after taking a controversial tripping penalty in overtime of the Hawks’ 2-1 loss to Montreal on Tuesday. His game winner on Wednesday was a thing of beauty from the pass by Duncan Keith to the finishing touch by Toews. If you think the captain won’t let his team miss the playoffs the year after winning the Cup, you’re probably right.

  • Speaking of controversies, the 10-minute video review of Marian Hossa’s goal felt like two days, but it helped build the drama of the moment. The United Center was abuzz about the play and then got silent as the referee made the announcement. I asked some players if it was like trying to figure out what it means when the “jury is out” that long. Is that good or bad for your case? Most thought the longer it went the better because the officials couldn’t find something obvious to overturn it. But as Toews said, “They sure tried hard.”

  • Pick your analogy: Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases after a World Series home run? Willis Reed playing on one leg in the 1970 NBA Finals? “The Natural?” Maybe the drama wasn’t quite like that regarding Patrick Sharp, but it was close. When Joel Quenneville announced before the game Sharp was attempting to play, reporters had to do a double take. “What was that? Can you repeat that again?” Shocking is the best way to describe him taking the ice with a bum knee and no practice time. He looked rusty early but came on strong late finishing with seven shots and four hits. Both led the team. It means he was around the puck and creating looks to the net which usually lead to good things happening. What a remarkable return.

  • Is Duncan Keith ever going to find his game again? His set-up of Toews’ winner made up for getting beat by Chris Stewart on the tying goal in the third period. But he had two more shot attempts blocked, and just one shot on goal, making it more the norm than the exception that he’ll have more blocked than get through. His decision-making continues to baffle. The easy play isn’t his way out often enough while his dangerous passes lead to scrambles to recover if not a full-blown scoring chance against. Simple is the way to go for Keith. But it should be noted Keith still plays the big minutes against the opponent’s best players.

  • The performances by Nick Leddy and Chris Campoli were positive signs for the playoffs. Secondary players need to step up, and if they can come from the blue line, even better. Campoli was arguably the best defenseman on the ice Wednesday, and Leddy could teach Keith a thing or two about accurate shots. They both played exactly 10:40 but contributed with three combined points. Huge.

  • Why did they need a video review in a game they were already trailing 2-0 to get them going? Clearly the goal being upheld gave them the momentum to take control of the game. As Toews said, “You don’t want it to be that way” in reference to needing something to spark them. But the Hawks play best when the walls are closing in, and that includes the championship team of a year ago. How many more times can it happen? We’ll find out soon enough.

    Slappers
  • There is nothing new to report on Dave Bolland. “Slow progress” are the words Quenneville has used to describe his recovery from a concussion suffered on March 9 in Tampa Bay. It’s unknown if he will return this season.
  • Detroit forward Henrik Zetterbergwas injured in the Wings game Wednesday against Carolina. His status for the weekend games is unclear.
  • Playoff update: Get ready for a wild finish

    April, 4, 2011
    4/04/11
    5:49
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    Every day between now and the end of the regular season I’ll update you on the playoff race as it relates to the Chicago Blackhawks. With a day off on Monday for the Hawks, let’s take an expanded look at how the race shapes up going into what should be a dramatic final week of the season:

    The Hawks continue to do things the hard way. Black Sunday, as it might be looked back on, saw the No. 8-seeded Hawks lose 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning while the No. 9- seeded Calgary Flames and No. 10-seeded Dallas Stars closed the gap by winning their respective games.

    The Hawks have 92 points, the Flames have 91 and the Stars have 89. Dallas’ win came against Anaheim, which isn’t out of the woods either as the Ducks currently hold the No. 7 seed with 93 points. So seeds 7 and 8 lost on Sunday while seeds 9 and 10 won -- that’s how it goes in the craziest Western Conference race in recent memory.

    The week ahead could be dramatic. Both the Hawks and Stars have four games remaining, but Dallas has the much easier schedule. The Flames have just two games left and both are winnable as well. The Hawks, meanwhile, take on a playoff-bound Montreal team on Tuesday in Canada, then come back home for St. Louis on Wednesday before ending the season with a home-and-home series against Central Division champ Detroit this weekend. That’s a tall task.

    However, if the Hawks go 2-2 they should make the playoffs. That’s assuming Calgary wins both its remaining games and the Stars go no better than 3-1.

    The Flames host Edmonton on Wednesday and Vancouver on Saturday. The highest point total they can achieve is 95. The Hawks would need two wins to get to 96 points and eliminate the Flames but Chicago also holds the tiebreaker, which means just getting three points would place them ahead of Calgary. That’s doable.

    Dallas is going to be tougher to eliminate, mostly because two of their four games -- a home-and-home set -- are against Colorado. The Avalanche has been on a collapse of epic proportions. They’ve won just one game against a playoff contender in either conference since Jan. 18. Colorado beat Phoenix last Friday in overtime. If ever a team could pencil in two wins it would be the Stars on Thursday and Friday against the Avalanche.

    Before those two games are played, the Stars host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Columbus isn’t horrendous on the road (17-14-8) but they’ve been on a downward spiral for a while as well.

    The most interesting day of the year could be Sunday -- the final day of the regular season. The Hawks host the Red Wings at 11:30 a.m. and maybe by the end of that game, or even sooner, they will have clinched a playoff spot. But if the Hawks need help, they’ll have to wait until the final game of the regular season finishes in Minnesota when the Wild host the Stars at 5 p.m.

    If Dallas wins out, they’ll have 97 points. The Hawks would need six of eight possible points to stay ahead. If the Hawks tie the Stars, earning five points this week, the tiebreaker is too close to determine right now. It all would depend on how the teams achieved their wins this week -- through regulation/overtime or via the shootout.

    Can you imagine the Hawks gathered in their dressing room on Sunday, or at a local establishment, rooting for John Madden, Martin Havlat, Cam Barker, and the rest of the Wild?

    If it comes down to that, the Hawks probably don’t deserve to play postseason hockey though some might say they don’t deserve it even now. But the season isn’t 78 games long, it’s 82. Will Sunday afternoon/evening be spent dissecting the Hawks’ playoff opponent or will the suspense last until the final horn on the 2010-11 campaign is blown?

    Get your fingernails ready for some biting. We’ll know in six days.

    Click here for the current NHL playoff matchups.

    Bad penalties coming back to haunt Hawks

    April, 3, 2011
    4/03/11
    10:29
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
    Archive
    CHICAGO -- Dumb penalties are starting to catch up with the Chicago Blackhawks. They took a bunch of them during Friday’s win in Columbus and then a few more on Sunday in a 2-0 defeat to Tampa Bay.

    None was bigger than Niklas Hjalmarsson’s delay-of-game call in the first period. Hjalmarsson tried to clear the puck out of his own zone, but put it into the stands. Seconds into the Lightning’s power play, Vincent Lecavalier scored the winning goal.

    It was the second consecutive game Hjalmarsson has been called for delay of game and the second game in a row in which the opponent scored on it. The Hawks have been called for it in three straight games.

    “When it comes to it, we’re wasting a lot of energy on the penalty kill,” Jonathan Toews said. “A lot of useless penalties we’re taking. It kind of takes you off your offensive game.”

    Corey Crawford also took a delay-of-game penalty. It’s an infraction which has cost them lately and on Sunday it cost them a game.

    Kubina talks about hit: Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina talked about the hit he delivered to Dave Bolland last time the teams met on March 9. Kubina’s high elbow got him a three-game suspension and knocked Bolland out of the lineup with a concussion. Currently, there is no timetable for Bolland’s return.

    “I didn’t mean to do it,” Kubina said after Sunday’s game. “Hopefully he’s going to be back for the playoffs. If I go back in my career, I’ve played 900 games and I never tried to hurt anybody.”

    Kubina said that he was trying to finish his check and the smaller Bolland turned at the last second, getting the elbow to the head. The two have not talked since the incident, including Sunday when they were both in the same building.

    “I don’t think he wants to talk to me,” Kubina said. “Maybe [I’ll] call him after the season. Hopefully he’ll play soon.”

    Slappers

  • The Hawks outshot Tampa Bay, 31-15. The 15 shots against tied a season low. The Hawks also had 21 shot attempts blocked.

  • Ryan Johnson won 7 of 10 faceoffs. His 63.3 winning percentage leads the NHL among players who have taken 50 or more draws.

  • Lecavalier left the game early in the second period after getting high-sticked by Michael Frolik. He was stitched up and will be re-evaluated on Monday.

  • The Hawks are just one point ahead of ninth-place Calgary and three points ahead of tenth-place Dallas after each of those teams posted wins on Sunday.
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