Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Down the Stretch They Come

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Hawk Talk: Down the Stretch They Come

Monday, Mar. 22, 2010
8:45 P.M.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Another week crossed off in the countdown toward the post-season, and another week of the Blackhawks knowing what they have to do before the playoffsbut still not doing it. Whatever positives were forged in their shutout victory in Los Angeles were quickly erased in their shootout defeat two nights later in Phoenix. The more defensive lapses, the more important their goaltending must be for post-season success. When those lapses are kept to a minimum, we saw the results earlier in the season. Thats the evidence, proof and belief Stan Bowman used at deadline time paired with a minimal number of willing trade partners and salary cap considerations. It wouldve been a great statement to make against the upstart Coyotes on their own ice, letting the Desert Dogs know who the Big Dogs were. But that team as the limbo over its ownership and where theyll call home drags on has certainly become reflective of the name of the city where it currently resides (Phoenix, that is, not Glendale).

While the Hawks plug away these final three weeks trying to regroup defensively, there may not more important games in their final eleven than Tuesdays rematch with the Coyotes, and the final regular season game, hosting Detroit. Thanks in part to the one that got away Saturday, Phoenix remains the only Western Conference team the Hawks have yet to beat. Should they meet again, it might do them good to know they can beat them, and have beaten them. Who knows what the value of that regular season finale will be to the Hawks and Red Wings for playoff positioning, but it also might do them good to know they can beat Detroit at full-strength, heading into the second season (provided neither team is resting up its top guns, as was the case last year). The Wings began the week showing what they can do when healthy, going 6-1-1 in their last 8, and the most favorable schedule of the contenders down the stretch has them poised to be movin on up (see below).

After Tuesday, seven of the Hawks eight games that follow are against teams on the outside of the playoff standings, looking in, with three weeks remaining. That either sets up nicely for them with teams they should beat, or can be a trap against opponents either in a state of desperation, or having nothing to lose in a spoiler role. Heres what the Wests eight playoff teams (as of March 22nd) face down the stretch in their respective schedules, along with the two teams within six points of 8th place, as well as the three teams all seven points back of the 8th spot. Since just about everyones NCAA brackets are blown up, maybe we can play the game based on their schedules of where each team will finish at the end of the regular season, and wholl be playing whom in round one.

1. Blackhawks (97 points)
11 games left Four vs. current playoff teams
Two games against teams in 9th & 10th (Calgary & St. Louis) Two games vs. three teams (Anaheim, Minnesota, Dallas) all seven points back2. Phoenix (97 points)
Nine games remaining Seven against current playoff teams One game vs. 9th-place Calgary Zero games vs. ANA, MIN, or DAL3. Vancouver (92 pts)
10 games left Five against current playoff teams One game vs. Calgary Three games against the three teams all seven points back (2 - ANA, 1 - MIN)4. San Jose (96 pts)
10 games remaining Five games vs. current playoff teams
One game against Calgary
Four games vs. the three within seven points of 8th place (2 - MIN, 2 - DAL)5. Nashville (89 pts)
Nine games left Five against current playoff teams Two games vs. St. Louis
One game vs. Dallas
6. Los Angeles (87 pts)
11 games remaining Five games vs. current post-season teams
One game against St. Louis
Four games vs. the trio seven back (1 - DAL, 1 - MIN, 2 - ANA)7. Colorado (86 pts)
10 games left Seven games vs. playoff teams One game against Calgary One vs. ANA8. Detroit (85 pts)
10 games left Four games against playoff teams Have a 7-1-1 record in last nine games
One game left vs. Minnesota and St. Louis
9. Calgary (81 pts)
10 games left Seven games against current playoff clubs Zero games vs. St. Louis
Two games against the three teams within seven points (ANA, MIN)10. St. Louis (77 pts)
10 games remaining Six opposite current playoff teams Zero games vs. Calgary Two games vs. teams 11-13 (DAL, ANA)11. Anaheim (76 pts)
10 games left Five games against current playoff clubs One game vs. St. Louis
Two games against Dallas12. Minnesota (76 pts)
10 games remaining Seven games vs. current playoff teams One game against Calgary One game vs. Dallas13. Dallas (76 pts)
10 games left Five games opposite playoff clubs One game against St. Louis
Three games vs. other teams with 76 points (2 - ANA, 1 - MIN)
Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pregame and Postgame Live on ComcastSportsNet.

Yes, the Blackhawks are scoreboard watching ... because it's part of the fun

Yes, the Blackhawks are scoreboard watching ... because it's part of the fun

When you look at the Western Conference standings, you'll notice that the Blackhawks have three teams to jump to get into the playoffs. It puts them in a tough spot because on one hand, what other teams do is beyond your control.

But it's also relevant to the Blackhawks and what they have to do to get in. Every team is scoreboard watching at this point of the season, especially when the games remaining list reaches the single digits.

"Yeah, I mean just generally watch games at night and obviously watch the teams that are close to us in the standings," Dylan Strome said. "You just keep an eye on them and see what happens. I think it's never a bad thing to be aware of what's going on around you. Obviously, first and foremost is us, but at the same time you gotta know where you stand and what you're fighting for. We all know that in this room but things can change each night in the NHL so I think it's good to be aware."

The Blackhawks were idle on Tuesday night, but the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota were not. In fact, they faced each other and both teams are ahead of the Blackhawks in the playoff picture. So in that instance, is there a sense of trying to mathematically figure out which team winning and losing would give them the better chance at making the playoffs?

"Yeah and then it usually goes into overtime," Strome laughed. "That's usually the way it goes sometimes. You never cheer for one team or for another. Last game of the year, maybe, if the standings are coming down to that, but I think right now with the fortune's kind of in our own hands. I think it's just about us taking care of business and giving it a good effort every night, and hopefully getting one or two [points] every night."

There's a delicate balance between exerting too much energy into looking at what other teams around you are doing and focusing on your own game and controlling what you can control. But this is part of the fun of being in a playoff hunt, and the hype surrounding it.

"I'll look," coach Jeremy Colliton acknowledged. "Depends how the day looks. I think it's fun. I love hockey, love watching fun games and certainly games that affect us are more interesting. But doesn't affect ... we're still focused on our own team and we said a few times, if we go on a great run here at the end it will work out. I believe that. I think things have a way of working out if you do your job. That'll be our focus here."

While there may not necessarily be direct rooting interest when channel surfing around the league, there is one thing Blackhawks players and coaches can agree on: anything but a three-point game.

"That's a fact," Colliton said. "No overtime."

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Hawks Talk Podcast: What will it take for Blackhawks to make playoffs?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What will it take for Blackhawks to make playoffs?

What will it take for the Chicago Blackhawks to earn a playoff spot with 10 games remaining? Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Charlie Roumeliotis discuss where the Blackhawks stand after a rough 3-2 loss in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks.

With Corey Crawford at the top of his game again, should the Blackhawks try to ride him into the playoffs? How have Jeremy Colliton’s line changes impacted Patrick Kane’s game? Plus, breakouts from Eric Gustafsson and Brendan Perlini have been huge for the Blackhawks during their recent streak of six straight games with a point. 

0:45 - Missed opportunity for Blackhawks against Canucks

2:45 – Hawks changing up lines has slowed down Patrick Kane

5:45 – Should the Blackhawks ride Corey Crawford while he’s hot?

8:00 – Hawks will need 13-15 points in final 10 games to get playoff spot

10:30 – Brendan Perlini has finally figured it out for Hawks

12:35 – Erik Gustafsson’s breakout year has been vital to Hawks success

15:35 – Dylan Sikura still hasn’t scored, but he’s been all over the ice

18:50 – Prediction time…will the Hawks make the playoffs?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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