Blackhawks: Nashville Predators
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks had gone so long without scoring a power-play goal their coach couldn’t even remember when the last one occurred.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville can be forgiven for his inability to recall it. Their last power-play goal didn’t even happen in the month of April. He would have had to gone back to March 29 against the Anaheim Ducks to locate it.
But after a nine-game drought and 0-for-19 scoreless streak, the Blackhawks finally broke out of their slump by scoring a power-play goal on their first opportunity Friday and later added another power-play goal for the game-winner to defeat the Nashville Predators 5-4 at the United Center.
“It was good,” Quenneville said. “The power play did some good things. Obviously the finished product is what we’re looking for. Our 4-on-3 [overtime power play] looked good as well. It was a long time coming. We were talking about it when we scored after the first period, ‘When was the last time we scored on the PP?’ It seemed like a long, long time ago. It was nice to see to get that off our back.”
Emery and Rozsival skated at the United Center prior to the team's morning skate on Friday, according to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. Sharp participated in the team's morning skate.
Quenneville said Emery is also questionable for Saturday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes. Quenneville said Emery is feeling better, but he could receive extra time to rest.
Quenneville said Rozsival is day-to-day.
Sharp, who will miss his third consecutive game, said he is getting closer to playing and plans to travel with the team for its games against Vancouver Canucks on Monday and Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
"Just another hard skate out there," Sharp after Friday's morning skate. "Luckily Drew LeBlanc is up here with me. We can practice pretty hard. A couple guys are out there as well. Just another day trying to improve and inch back into the lineup.
"As a player and a hockey player, you want to play and be healthy and ready to go. I'm not sitting out because I'm resting for anything. I'm not playing because I can't. As soon as I'm ready to play, I'll get back in there."
Sharp, who has five goals and 13 assists in 26 games this season, has missed the team's past two games with an upper-body injury. He also recently sat out 14 games due to an upper-body injury. He had been back for two games before his latest injury.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said they will be re-evaluated Wednesday and could play Thursday against the St. Louis Blues. Both players participated in Monday's morning skate at the United Center.
With three more wins and six more points since last week's rankings, the Blackhawks (15-0-3) are now 11 points ahead of the St. Louis Blues, who have 22 points, for the lead in the Central Division. The Blackhawks also lead the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators by 12 points and the Columbus Blue Jackets by 21 points.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks' penalty kill is going so well Niklas Hjalmarsson felt comfortable enough to go for style points at a most critical time.
With the Hawks down a man after Andrew Shaw got called for charging with a little over five minutes left in the game, Hjalmarsson got the puck on the boards to the left of his goal and fired a clearing pass between his legs.
The puck went deep into Columbus territory and about a minute later, the Blackhawks killed another penalty.
Hey, whatever works. Hjalmarsson also blocked six shots with his body, but with that pass, he showed he's more than a target.
"It was a little too much, maybe," Hjalmarsson said after the 1-0 victory over the Blue Jackets on Sunday night. "But I got the puck out. Probably half of the guys in the crowd got pretty scared there."
That play was pretty indicative of how things are going for Chicago right now. A dash of style and a lot of substance are going a long way. With the victory, the Hawks extended their NHL record to 18 straight games with a point, or to put it another way, without a regulation loss, to start a season.
Read the entire column.
Aside from the Blackhawks staying on top of the Western Conference's Central Division, there has been some movement in the division in the past week.
The St. Louis Blues have gone from hanging right with the Blackhawks with a 6-1-0 record to dropping their past four games, one coming in a shootout. The Blues are now 6-4-1 and are in fourth place in the division with 13 points.
As the Blues have faded, the Detroit Red Wings have gained some momentum. The Red Wings have bounced back from a two-game losing streak to win their past three games and have allowed four goals in the past three games. They have improved to 7-4-1 and rest in second place in the division with 15 points.
The Nashville Predators sit between the Blues and Red Wings with 14 points. The Predators have lost their past two games after winning their previous four games. They scored just once in losses to the Minnesota Wild and Blackhawks.
If the season ended today, the Central Division would fill four playoffs spots with the Blackhawks leading the Western Conference, Detroit in fifth, Nashville in sixth and St. Louis in seventh.
DETROIT -- If there was any doubt the Chicago Blackhawks did indeed want to earn the No. 5 seed and a date with the Nashville Predators in the opening round of the playoffs, Joel Quenneville erased it by pulling Corey Crawford in the closing seconds of regulation in the Hawks eventual 3-2 shootout victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
The game was tied 2-2 at the time, after the Hawks blew a 2-0 third-period lead by allowing Pavel Datsyuk to score with 47 seconds remaining and tie the game.
“Like we said going into the game, there are no bargains out there,” Joel Quenneville said afterwards. “All four teams we were eligible to play we had losing records against them this year but at the same time wherever the chips fell, wherever we end up, is always a chance. We said going into the game if we have to pull the goalie, we’ll pull the goalie.”
It sounds like more than anything the Hawks wanted to respect the game -- and the hockey gods -- in figuring out their playoff fate.
“It shows you that we want to win the game,” Patrick Sharp said of pulling the goalie. “You get into trouble if you start picking who you want to play in the playoffs. I’ve said it all along, you look at the eight teams in the West, it’s not going to be an easy series for anyone.”
So whether it was Nashville or now Los Angeles, Phoenix or San Jose, the Hawks weren’t thinking about their future foe as much as they were thinking about themselves.
“I thought we had an excellent finish to our season and have some momentum going into the playoffs,” Quenneville said. “No matter who we play it’ll be a challenge.”
The Hawks might lament giving up the lead, but they took the season series over the Wings four games to two, earning points in all six contests. That’s impressive. And all six games were one-goal affairs.
“It’s nothing special,” Duncan Keith said. “They’re a good team but right now we’re focused on the playoffs.”
And who they might play. That comes later on Saturday. At least the Hawks can say they played the game the right way right to the end.
“Last game of the season there was a lot on the line for seeding but I thought for the most part we played a good game and we were able to come out with a win anyway,” Sharp said. “So that’s good.”
Kane’s shootout move
After Pavel Datsyuk failed to score with a between the legs move, Patrick Kane tried the same, but finished on it.
“I just thought of the move real quick, put it through my legs and bring it back,” Kane said. “Luckily it worked out ... I know they were fighting for home ice but it didn’t really mean anything to our team so I figured why not try to do something.”
Unlike Thursday in Minnesota Kane didn’t need to lift the puck. He went through the legs of goaltender Jimmy Howard and scored the lone goal in the shootout.
“I just thought of it real quick to get the fans out of their seats and score too,” Kane said. “Glad it worked.”
• Jimmy Hayes lost two teeth after getting high-sticked in the first period by Riley Sheahan.
“Then I got an elbow in the game later that split my lip open,” Hayes said.
• Marian Hossa won the team scoring title with 77 points, leading the Hawks with 48 assists. Patrick Sharp led the Hawks in goals with 33 and also had the best plus/minus on the team with a plus-28 rating.
• Sharp had two prime assists for the Hawks including a nifty pass out front to Andrew Shaw for the Hawks second goal.
• Viktor Stalberg added to his career high with his 22nd goal on a rebound of a Sharp shot. All 43 of his points this season came even strength, the most in the league.
• During the first period the Hawks announced goalie Ray Emery had signed a one year contract extension. He’ll make $1.15 million next year, according to a league source.
“I guess we were going on the road anyway so it probably doesn’t matter much to us,” -- Kane, on not winning the game in regulation and earning a higher seed.
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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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.
“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.
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesCould the Predators be a tougher matchup for the Blackhawks than the Kings?
“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.”
Every day between now and the end of the regular season I’ll update you on the playoff race as it pertains to the Blackhawks:
In holding on to beat the Nashville Predators, 5-4, on Saturday night, the Hawks clinched a playoff berth and now can set their sights on home-ice advantage in the first round. They closed the gap on the Predators and are just one point behind them for the No. 4 seed.
By virtue of a tiebreaker, the Hawks remain the No. 6 seed while Detroit is still No.5. The Wings host the Florida Panthers on Sunday having played one less game than Chicago.
If the playoffs began today, the Hawks would take on the Los Angeles Kings, but that matchup is bound to change on a daily basis. The Kings held onto the No. 3 seed by earning a point in an overtime loss to Minnesota, but Phoenix caught them in points (91) with a 4-0 shutout of Anaheim. San Jose is just one point behind both those teams after shutting out Dallas, 3-0, on Saturday.
The Hawks host the Wild on Sunday with a chance to pass Nashville for the No.4 seed. No other Western Conference playoff team besides Detroit is in action on Sunday.
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.
The Los Angeles Kings prevented the Hawks from clinching a playoff berth as they beat the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night, 4-1. The win vaulted the Kings back into first place in the Pacific Division knocking the Dallas Stars down to the No. 7 seed as they lost 5-2 to the Vancouver Canucks.
The Hawks have a chance to clinch on their own if they earn at least a point in Saturday night’s game against the Nashville Predators. Nashville beat Detroit 4-1 on Friday to take over the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. Nashville has 98 points, Detroit has 97 and Chicago has 95. Even if the Hawks beat Nashville and tie Detroit in the points, they’ll still wake-up on Sunday as the No. 6 seed due to tie-breakers.
The Hawks can also clinch a playoff berth if the San Jose Sharks lose, in regulation or overtime, later on Saturday when they host the Stars. If Dallas loses in regulation or Phoenix does the same against Anaheim, the Hawks also clinch. Lastly, if the Kings lose to Minnesota in regulation or overtime the Hawks can clinch.
The Hawks are 1-4 against Nashville this year while the Predators have earned points in all five games. Nashville’s win on Friday earned coach Barry Trotz his 500th career victory. The Hawks are 14-6-2 against the Central Division while the Predators are 16-4-3.
If the playoffs started to the Hawks would take on the Kings in the opening round of the postseason.
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.