One last 'biggest game of the year' for Hawks


One last 'biggest game of the year' for Hawks

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 12:41 p.m.

By Tracey Myers

One game remains, from which one point is needed. For the Chicago Blackhawks, it comes down to that. Get a point out of their final regular-season game against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday and theyre in the postseason.

A loss and a Dallas Stars win, and its bye-bye Stanley Cup defense. Simple. And its also, obviously, the most critical situation the Blackhawks have faced all season.

Everythings at stake for tomorrows game, Joel Quenneville said after Saturdays practice. I dont know how many times weve said that statement all year, but tomorrow it really is.

If the Blackhawks want to get that one point or two, which would actually be more to their liking theyre going to have to bring the same dominant game they had in their 4-2 victory in Detroit on Friday night. The Blackhawks were stellar; as Brian Campbell said, they recognized the situation at hand.

Rinse and repeat.

Its the biggest game. (Friday) was the biggest before that, and the one before that. Its been that way for a while, Campbell said. Were still in the same situation. Its probably going to be a playoff atmosphere so well be ready to go.

Theyll have to be. The Red Wings, frustrated with their performance in Detroit on Friday, will want to play spoiler to their Central Division rival. It will likely be a tight game, and as long as the Blackhawks get one point out of it, theyll be a happy group.

We need one point and were looking for two. Detroits going to want to come in and burst our bubble, Bryan Bickell said. We could come in (fifth) if other things happen. We want to get a win and not have to worry about Dallas.

Ah yes, Dallas. The Stars are two points behind Chicago and play in Minnesota later on Sunday. The Blackhawks dont want to leave the United Center on Sunday afternoon and have to hope, wish and pray that the Wild help them out.

So its up to them. Its game 82 and the Blackhawks hold their own postseason fate in their hands. Its the playoffs before the playoffs, and if the Blackhawks arent ready, theyll be no one last chance.

Our goal and focus all year was to get in. Weve been targeting it all year and its been a major battle for us, Quenneville said. But weve still put ourselves in a position where we have control, so lets get excited.

Bolland returns

Center Dave Bolland, who has been out with a concussion since March 9, practiced with his teammates on Saturday. Bolland, practicing one month to the date after he was sidelined by Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina, had non-contact status.

Despite practicing, Bolland was not made available to talk on Saturday. His teammates were encouraged by Bollands return.

He looks a lot better than the last time I saw him, for sure, said Bickell, whos been Bollands linemate often this season. Seeing him skating today, it was pretty huge. He looked pretty good for all the time he had off. Hopefully hell have a fast recovery.

Quenneville said Bolland looked all right.

Hes still not cleared for contact but he made real good progress over the last three or four days so well continue to see how hes progressing.

Bolland had made little progress for what seemed like weeks before improving this past week. Campbell said he didnt bother Bolland too much during his recovery.

Im not the type of guy who wants to ask too many questions on how hes feeling because Im sure he gets that 500 times a day, said Campbell, who added that his only concussion was when he was in juniors.

Campbell came back quickly from his concussion, which was dealt with in an interesting way.

My junior coach told me to have a beer and fall asleep and Id be all right. Hes old school, as you can tell, Campbell said. I played a few days later, but concussions werent the talk of everything back then.

Patrick Sharp and Tomas Kopecky did not practice on Saturday but Quenneville said both were fine and just resting.

Troy Brouwer (right shoulder) did not practice Saturday. Quenneville said Brouwers condition is status quo. His progress is still day to day and well get a better idea when we see him on the ice. But hes not close to that right now.

Tracey Myers is's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks able to hold group workouts starting Monday when NHL's Phase 2 begins

Blackhawks able to hold group workouts starting Monday when NHL's Phase 2 begins

On Thursday, the NHL announced that it will move to Phase 2 of its Return To Play Plan effective on Monday, June 8.

Teams like the Blackhawks will be allowed to open their practice facilities for off-ice and on-ice "individualized training activities". A maximum amount of six players, plus limited team staff, are permitted to be scheduled for workouts on a voluntary basis.

Per the NHL "participation (education, diagnostic testing, scheduling for medicals, etc.), can begin immediately." 

It was recently reported that team training camps to lead up to the 24-team postseason format wouldn't begin ahead of July 10. Under the format, the Blackhawks are set to take on the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-5 play-in round.

The NHL paused on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Breaking down Blackhawks' path to Stanley Cup in 24-team Return to Play format

Breaking down Blackhawks' path to Stanley Cup in 24-team Return to Play format

The NHL and NHL Players' Association officially ironed out the final details of its 24-team Return to Play format, which is another positive step in the right direction as both sides look to reach an overall agreement on resuming play.

Here's a brief rundown of the most notable items from Thursday's announcement:

— The qualifying round will be composed of a best-of-5 series while the four other rounds will be best-of-7. 

— The top four teams from each conference will play each other in a round-robin format to determine the No. 1-4 seeds. Regular season points percentage will serve as the tiebreaker.

— Instead of the traditional bracketed format in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NHL will reseed after each round, with the highest remaining seed in each conference facing the lowest remaining seed, etc.

— In the qualifying round and first and second rounds, the higher-seeded team will be designated as the home team. In the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, the team with the higher regular season points percentage will be considered the home team.

The details shouldn't come as much of a surprise. It was important to the players to maintain the integrity of the playoffs while making sure the teams that had a strong regular season were rewarded with a favorable path. For the Blackhawks, the challenge got a little more difficult but that was to be expected.

This is what the Western Conference playoff picture looks like:

1. St. Louis Blues 
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Vegas Golden Knights
4. Dallas Stars

5. Edmonton Oilers vs. 12. Chicago Blackhawks
6. Nashville Predators vs. 11. Arizona Coyotes
7. Vancouver Canucks vs. 10. Minnesota Wild
8. Calgary Flames vs. 9. Winnipeg Jets

Should they upset the Oilers in the qualifying round, the Blackhawks would face the highest seed of the round-robin winner in the first round of the playoffs. Right now, that's the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues, who swept the Blackhawks in a regular-season series for the first time in their 53-year history. The Blackhawks went 0-4-0 and were outscored by the Blues 16-8 this season.

Here's how the Blackhawks fared against the three other top seeds in the West:

— 1-3-0 vs. Colorado with a minus-8 goal differential (19 goals for, 11 goals against)
— 1-1-1 vs. Vegas with a minus-2 goal differential (nine goals for, seven goals against)
— 1-1-1 vs. Dallas with a plus-2 goal differential (five goals for, three goals against)

If the Blackhawks advance past the first round, their path will only get tougher. As the last seed in their respective conference, they will draw the highest seed as each round progresses under the re-seeding format.

But nobody should be disappointed about that. The Blackhawks have been given new life and Chicago will take it.

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