Everyone can sleep tight tonight because the Blackhawks will not have to worry about the big, bad and apparently unbeatable Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs. By choking away a 2 goal lead in the 3rd period the Hawks will be the 6th seed in the playoffs and will face the Pacific Division winner. We will find out later tonight if the Hawks will play the Phoenix Coyotes, the Los Angeles Kings, or the San Jose Sharks. If I had to pick one I would prefer the Sharks. The Hawks have had their troubles with LA’s Jonathan Quick and Phoenix’s Mike Smith is playing out of his mind right now. The bottom line is if the Blackhawks are playing at the top of their game they can beat anyone, including the mighty Predators. The Hawks finished 4th in the Central Division with 101 points. That is ridiculous. The Central is without a doubt the toughest division in hockey. It looks like the Canucks will get the top seed in the West for the second straight year. They will also be the only team to come out of their crappy division for the second straight season. Makes me wonder how good they would be if they played in a real division like the Central. The Blackhawks are playoff ready and if they are fully healthy they can compete with anyone in the NHL. They have proven that they have a giant heart and huge stones for they way they have played without their captain. That is why I wasn’t too worried about a possible series versus Nashville. At the very least the traveling would be much easier on the team. Besides, if the Preds are the real deal the Hawks will have to go through them anyways, might as well get it over with early. On to today’s shootout win:
- Corey Crawford was fantastic again today. He had to make a ton of good saves in the 1st period to keep the Hawks in the game. In his last 11 starts of the season Crow went 8-1-2 with a 1.85 GAA and a .921 SV%. Yep, I think he is ready for the post season.
- Can’t say enough about the improvement we have seen from Viktor Stalberg. He has been fantastic as of late and finished the year with a career high 22 goals. He is as confident as he has ever been. He finished today with a goal on a team high 6 shots.
- Andrew Shaw continues to be very impressive. He has a lot offer to this team. Besides his willingness to get to the dirty areas of the ice and get under his opponent’s skin, he has shown some great touch. He has made some fantastic passes and can finish with the best of them. His goal today showed how well he can finish at the net. I really think his line with Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland can be very effective in the playoffs and I am excited to see what they can do.
- Am I the only one that is bothered by Pavel Datsyuk’s oddly misshapen head? It really creeps me out. It looks like a triangle!!
- Brent Seabrook had 6 shots on goal today. He also made Johan Franzen look silly twice on the same play. I have always said the Blackhawks are a much better team when the defensemen are getting involved in the offense.
- Speaking of the defensemen, it was good to see Sami Lepisto out there today. And Nick Leddy was a +1 as well.
- If the Blackhawks want to make a deep run in the playoffs the power play has to show up. The Hawks got a 4 minute double minor and got outshot on it 2 to 1. Just when you think you’ve seen it all.
- Ray Emery got a one year contract extension today, I am hoping Jamal Mayers is next.
My Blackhawks Player of the Game
Patrick Sharp gets the nod for player of the game. He had the primary assist on both of the Blackhawks goals. He had a great feed from behind the net on Shaw’s goal. Thankfully for Sharpie there is no shootout in the playoffs. The 2nd line of Sharp, Stalberg and Marcus Kruger have been playing at a high level down the stretch. They can matchup well with any of the Pacific team’s 2nd lines.
My Turd of the Game
I was thinking of giving the TOTG to Riley Sheahan for getting a 4 minute double minor on the 1st shift of his NHL career but I am giving it to Todd Bertuzzi just because. This guy makes my skin crawl and my bowels move. He didn’t do anything in today’s game that really outraged me but I hate seeing his face on my television.