As the Blackhawks solidified their post-season standing, they put another team one step closer to its couch.
With Detroit’s loss to Philadelphia earlier in the day, the ‘Hawks clinched their first division title since it was still called the Norris roughly 900 years ago. It’s the first time any team but the Red Wings have won the Central in eight seasons.
With their 4-1 victory against Calgary on Easter Sunday, the Blackhawks assured themselves of a top-three seed and are still in the running for home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. And what better team to come town than a Flames team which looks in absolute disarray every time it faces the ‘Hawks.
Eight regular-season meetings the past two seasons, eight Blackhawks victories — not to mention the ‘Hawks six-game playoff series victory. The Flames came into Chicago yesterday fighting for their playoff lives and left picking out their headstone scripture.
Dave Parkinson over at Flame For Thought believes Jarome Iginla has abandoned his squad:
"In today’s perhaps playoff-crushing 4-1 loss in Chicago – a game the Flames had to win, but didn’t even come close – what was the team’s undisputed leader and superstar’s contribution? Zero goals, zero assists, one shot, zero hits, minus-2.In the most critical stretch run for the franchise in years, Iginla’s game has gone AWOL. He hasn’t scored a goal in nine games, and only once in the past 13. He has one point in his past six games.This is brutal. He’s supposed to be picking up his game. Instead, he’s letting down his team."
Fork over at Hockee Night agrees:
"The notion that Jerome Iginla is somehow a leader in the mold of Gainey, Messier and Armstrong. After four first-round exits in a row, the Flames can pretty much start booking tee-times after getting no points in this one. He was completely invisible in this game, which is the type of game where the Captain needs to step up."
To Iginla’s defense, the Blackhawks seem to have him figured out and they shut him down again today. It’s almost a given Calgary needs to win without much contribution from Iginla when the Flames play the ‘Hawks. But, I digress.
Easter Sunday observations:
— Antti Niemi played spectacularly again. Both him and the rest of the Blackhawks seems to be playing and reacting to each other as if they finally know he’s The Guy. Calgary’s only goal came when Ian White undressed Jordan Hendry at the blue line and fired a shot far side past Niemi. Other than that, Anti-Goal was stopping breakaways, snagging re-directs and playing like a No. 1.
Oh, and Niemi had an assist. He’s a fucking goaltender.
— Patrick Kane scored his first points in the last four games with a goal and an assist. It’s weird — I seem to know when Kaner is going to score. When he hit center ice, I sensed a goal coming just by the way he was skating. He seemed to know where every opponent was on the ice and what they would do to attempt to stop him. Kaner proceeded to fire a beautiful wrister over Miikka Kiprusoff’s right shoulder. He also added an assist and was named the No. 1 Star.
— Tomas Kopecky scored his first goal this season at the United Center. It was his 10th of the season.
— Troy Brouwer and Dustin Byfuglien added goals. As McClure of Second City Hockey points out, the first line of Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa continues to impress as one of the best in the league. They’re smart, they work extremely well together and are constantly putting pressure in the opponent’s zone. If the NHL isn’t scared, they should be.
— One penalty in two games for the Blackhawks. Pretty F-ing ridiculous. It seems as if all the bitching we’ve done about the refs this season is being heard. Or not.
PROGRAMMING ALERT: I will be joining Fork and CT on the PUCKCAST tonight at 8:15 p.m. CT — HOCKEENIGHT and BLACKHAWK UP Cheer During The Anthem. Go have yourself a listen at HockeeNight.com.