Standings Update and Tampa Preview: Nail-Biting Continues

Photo: chicitysports.com

Okay, last night was good. Lots of teams that we needed to lose, actually lost. Those include Anaheim, Dallas and Nashville. And there was much rejoicing.

The standings of relevant teams in the Western Conference now look like this:

4th:  Los Angeles  (96 points, 4 games remaining, 36 non-shootout wins)
5th:  Phoenix  (96, 3, 37)
6th:  Nashville  (95, 3, 36)
7th:  Anaheim  (93, 4, 40)
8th:  Chicago  (92, 5, 36)
9th:  Calgary  (89, 3, 30)
10th:  Dallas  (87, 6, 33)

Why Los Angeles is ahead of Phoenix is a little stymieing, but it doesn’t involve the Blackhawks at this point, so screw it. One day I’ll invest the 2 minutes necessary to research the answer, but not right now.

The other games of consequence tonight are actually pretty big ones for us. Calgary takes on Colorado, and Dallas is at Anaheim. Victory for the Men of Four Feathers coupled with losses by the Flames and Stars make it nearly impossible for either of those teams to make the post-season, in-effect guaranteeing the Blackhawks a ticket to the playoffs. So while you’re cheering the ‘Hawks, keep an eye on those two tilts.

Tonight the ‘Hawks take the ice against a potent and crowd-energizing Lightning team boasting two how’d-they-do-that offensive powerhouses in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, as well as 41-year-old comeback kid goaltender Dwayne Roloson. But the secret behind this team is two-fold: first, Stamkos and St. Louis are nearly all of the Lightning’s offensive punch; and secondly, Roloson is rarely exceptional — he’s very often only as good as he has to be on any given night.

Evidence? How about most of the roster being in a negative plus-minus, many of whom in double-digit negative? How about one (count him, one) 20-goal scorer aside from the afore-mentioned howitzers? How about winning games by decidedly unimpressive margins in nearly every outing? And how about a team GAA closer to 3 than 2, and a save percentage a fingernail above 90%?

This team is beatable. And we proved that in Tampa less than a month ago, we just couldn’t recover from the loss of Dave Bolland early in the matchup thanks to Pavel Kubina’s elbow to the head.

Umm, guys? Yeah… Okay, good. You remembered. Just one request: blood splatter. We want to see blood splatter.

No lineup changes for the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford is your goaltender for the next week unless he runs off with Britney Spears or something. Lightning defenseman Randy Jones is the only player absent from the visitors’ bench.

Family-friendly 6:00pm puck drop at the United Center this evening. National coverage of the game is available on the NHL Network, although Chicagoland will see the game on WGN. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will hear the game on channel 207.

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