Chicago Blackhawks: Playoff race

Hawks earn No. 6 playoff seed

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
3:06
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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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.

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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.

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Hawks' playoff position hinges on last game

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
8:29
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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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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Playoff update: Falling Stars

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
10:15
AM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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Every day between now and Saturday I'll update you on the playoff race as it relates to the Chicago Blackhawks.

After Tuesday's action in the Western Conference there is a clearer picture of who will qualify for the playoffs. The San Jose Sharks' win over Dallas has separated them from the Stars by three points for the No. 8 seed while Phoenix earned a third consecutive shutout, 2-0 over Columbus, to lead the No. 9 seed by four points. Both those teams also closed the gap on the Pacific Division leading Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have the No. 3 seed thanks to a tiebreaker with Phoenix while the Sharks are one point behind them both.

If the playoffs started today the No. 6-seeded Hawks would face the Kings in the first round, a team they lost three of four from this season. They were shutout twice by Los Angeles as well.

Nashville's 2-1 shootout win over Minnesota on Tuesday vaulted them over Detroit for the No. 4 seed. They lead the Hawks by two points, the Wings are ahead of Chicago by one.

Wednesday's action in the NHL includes a match-up in St. Louis between the Red Wings and Blues. Detroit has played one fewer game than the Hawks and Predators.

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.

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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.

Quick starts putting Hawks on right path

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
9:52
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane wasn’t even asked about the beginning to his team’s 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday night. He brought it up on his own after being asked about the Hawks’ recent hot play.

“It’s kind of attributed to our starts,” he said. “Getting up 2-0 in games really helps, especially where we were the last couple games before that. We had to play from behind a lot. It takes a lot of strength and effort to come back in those games. It’s nice to get a lead and hold onto it.”

[+] EnlargeViktor Stalberg
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesViktor Stalberg's first-period goal put the Blackhawks ahead by two on Sunday.
For the second straight game the Hawks were up 2-0 very early in the night and it set the tone for the rest of the game. That’s a departure from recent play when the Hawks were caught scrambling to recover. Not anymore.

“If you would [have seen] me hammering away in the three home games prior to Dallas and the last game you might say ‘OK,’” coach Joel Quenneville explained of the Hawks’ improved early play. “It was a broken record. A lot of nights the starts are instrumental to the outcome.”

That they are. Statistics prove it. If you lead after the first period in the NHL, you’re winning most of those games. The Hawks are 19-2-2 when that happens and now 22-7-2 when scoring the first goal.

(Read full post)

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: Hawks inch closer

    April, 3, 2011
    4/03/11
    2:19
    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 Chicago Blackhawks:

    Three games had an effect on the idle Hawks on Saturday, and all three produced positive outcomes as Chicago inched even closer to clinching a playoff position.

    The Dallas Stars fell 3-1to the Los Angele Kings and remain five points behind the Hawks for the final playoff spot. The Hawks and Stars have five games remaining on their schedule. Calgary had the day off and remains just three points behind the Hawks for the No. 8 seed, but the Flames have just three games left.

    In addition to the Stars losing, the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators blew leads in their respective games allowing Chicago to stay within striking distance of both those teams.

    The Ducks are stuck on 93 points after losing 4-2 to San Jose. Nashville was up 3-0 on Detroit only to fall 4-3 in overtime. They have 95 points but have played two more games than the Hawks who have 92 points. The Predators are the No. 6 seed, the Ducks are No. 7.

    Seeds 7-10 are all in action Sunday. The Hawks will host the Tampa Bay Lightning while the Ducks host the Stars and Calgary is in Colorado. By the end of the night the Hawks could be seventh in the conference but cannot drop out of the top eight.

    Playoff update: No gain for Flames

    March, 31, 2011
    3/31/11
    1:45
    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:

    Wednesday wasn’t a bad night for the Hawks as the Calgary Flames failed to gain any ground, losing 4-2 to Anaheim. It means the Hawks remain three points ahead of the Flames and the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

    Calgary might almost be buried with only four games remaining compared to six for the Hawks and seven for the Stars. But the Flames have an easy schedule and could conceivably garner all eight points available to them. Even so, they will need some help to get in.

    The Hawks’ main rival right now is the Stars. They can close the gap on Thursday when they play in San Jose but no matter the outcome, the Hawks will remain the No. 8 seed heading into Friday’s game in Columbus. The Stars also have a fairly easy finish though they play seven games in the final 11 days of the season. The Hawks have six in 10 days.

    Nashville is the No. 7 seed after being jumped by Anaheim. They are two points ahead of the Hawks and have played one more game. It will be two extra games after Thursday’s contest in Colorado. If the playoffs started today, the Hawks would face the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the opening round.

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    TEAM LEADERS

    POINTS
    Patrick Sharp
    PTS GOALS AST +/-
    8 3 5 0
    OTHER LEADERS
    GoalsP. Sharp 3
    AssistsP. Sharp 5
    +/-D. Keith 2
    GAAC. Crawford 1.66