Hawks still on playoff bubble

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The Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks skate into the Bell Centre Tuesday in a more desperate playoff situation than the Canadiens, which may give them an extra shot of urgency. The Habs’ old Original Six rivals are in the West’s eighth spot, one point ahead of the Flames, although they have two games in hand on Calgary. Those games don’t mean anything if Chicago doesn’t win them, however, and the way they’ve played lately, that’s no certainty.

Chicago has been shut out twice on home ice in their last three games and have scored fewer than three goals five times in their last eight. Blanked in their last game on Sunday against Tampa Bay — 2-0, although really a 1-0 game with an empty netter — they dominated the flow of play and outshot the Lightning 31-15. That matched their fewest shots allowed in a game this season, but were stymied by a solid, if not spectacular, performance from Mike Smith in goal for Tampa Bay and his teammates. The Lightning scored early, a Vinny Lecavlier goal in the first period, then sat back and frustrated Chicago.

“They definitely played a more passive system,” Hawks defenseman Chris Campoli said. “They pretty much had five guys back in the neutral zone. They seemed to be satisfied with the one goal they got. We had our chances … (but) we need to find a way to score goals.”

One area where the Hawks have fallen off compared to last season is in the area of secondary scoring. They’re feeling the offseason losses of Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg, not to mention the injuries to centres Patrick Sharp (knee) and Dave Bolland (concussion). Troy Brouwer has no goals in his last 21 games. Bryan Bickell 1 in his last 11. Michael Frolik none in his last 12. Tomas Kopecky 1 in his last nine. “You need a calculator to figure out the last time Jake Dowell, Fernando Pisani or Ryan Johnson scored,” wrote Tim Sassone in The Daily Herald.

“We’re trying and everyone wants to score goals, that’s the most fun part of the game,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “One way or another, I think everyone has to take responsibility. It’s not just one or two guys that have got to score the goals in here, it’s everybody that can find a way and step up and take advantage of their opportunities. If guys in here are thinking that’s not their role then they’re mistaken. Everyone can chip in that way.”

They’re also missing some grit without Byfuglien and another offseason loss in Ben Eager, as well as the defensive awareness of John Madden, not to mention the depth on their defence corps with Brent Sopel, who played an important role for the Hawks last season. Plus, blueliner Jordan Henry is out for the season with an ACL injury.

As a consequence, Chicago is not the same physical team they were last season and can be expected to play a puck-possession game.

On the other hand, the whole picture for Chicago is a bit brighter than just during the last few games. They were stuck in 11th place in mid-February and have gone 14-6-3 since then, which included an eight game winning streak and some masterful play by Toews.

Plus, the Hawks do control their own destiny and, because the West is so tight, a good last four games could not only clinch a spot but move them up in the standing, depending on how those in front of them fare. They have a game in hand on seventh place Anaheim and sixth place Nashville and moving up could give them a first round matchup against Detroit or San Jose. As it stands now, they’d play the Presidents’ Trophy winner Vancouver if they finish eighth and it would be the third time in three years they would face each other, with the Hawks winning both times.

And they still have some excellent talent in Toews (a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate), Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Hossa has 21 points in his last 20 games, Kane has 15 points in his last 15 games. Keith is averaging nearly 27 minutes a game, tops in the NHL, and almost a minute more than the second place player, the Flames Jay Bouwmeester.

But for Toews, their opponent is not the priority. ““It’s not even about points,” Toews said. “We want to prepare ourselves to be a team that goes beyond the first round regardless of who we play, whether we get home ice or not. When you get to the playoffs anything can happen, but you’ve got to be prepared for it. We’ve got to be pushing to be a better team.”

Twenty-six–year-old rookie Corey Crawford in goal for the Hawks has gotten a good deal of attention in the media the last few days (including from Gazette sports editor Stu Cowan) as the South Shore Châteauguay homeboy plays his first game in Montreal against the team he cheered for as a kid. He’s played 23 consecutive games for the Hawks, which coincides with their rise from 11th and he is likely to make it 24 on Tuesday. Crawford is the first Hawks goalie to post 30 wins in a season since Jocelyn Thibault in 2001-02. His 31 wins and 2.27 GAA are best among rookies, and his .918 save percentage is tied for second.

Veteran Marty Turco is the backup.

Here’s how the Blackhawks are likely to line up on Tuesday (although the search for a winger to play with Towes and Kane in Sharp’s absence is on-going):

Bryan Bickell-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane
Viktor Stalberg-Michael Frolik-Marian Hossa
Jake Dowell-Ryan Johnson-Fernando Pisani
Tomas Kopecky-Marcus Kruger-Troy Brouwer

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Chris Campoli-Nick Leddy

Corey Crawford
Marty Turco

21 Comments

  1. emann_222 says:

    Habs have a great home ice opportunity to send the defending Stanley Cup Champs home wondering if they’ll see the post season. It won’t be an easy win, but it is do-able.

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  3. gp52 says:

    new point system

    3 points for win in regulation
    0 points for loss in regulation

    2 points for win in OT
    1 point for loss in OT

  4. HabFanSince72 says:

    Tim Thomas’ meltdown against the Rangers last night has essentially consigned the Leafs to a 6th season out of the playoffs.

    Under Burke, their record is better than only Edmonton, Florida and the Isles, teams without the financial resources to compete. (or in the case of Edmonton inability to attract free agents even if they could afford them.)

    But you just wait until next year.

    • And Toronto is in the center of the universe and can’t attract free agents?

      They need to stop dreaming and come up to reality

      ” The Habs will win the Cup ONLY with Carey Price in the Nets “

    • The Cat says:

      Im ignorant to cap stuff, but dont all teams have the same financial resources now?

      [Disclaimer]: I’m a hockey fan. I care about the habs, but probably not as much as you.

      • wotever says:

        Teams don’t spend to the limit – some barely make the bottom. Checkout capgeek.com – the Islanders are spending $20M under the cap – and I’m not even sure if capgeek is spitting out the correct numbers viz payroll vs cap, since front-loaded contracts permit you to hit the cap floor while paying underneath it.

        Some of the bottom teams actually don’t do that bad when you consider what they’re spending. (Ottawa and Edmonton did salary dumps so I don’t necessarily include them in this category – but then again they’ve almost done better since doing the salary dumps… ;-))

        It’s just a game.

  5. I would be weary if this game was played in Chicago, but its not.

    The Habs have home ice advantage and should capitilize on this. They need to come out strong from the beginning and take it to the Hawks.

    I predict a 4-1 win for the Habs, although I would like to see Carey get another shutout.

    This has to be the game that the Canadiens should clinch a playoff spot. Anything else will truly be disappointing.

    ” The Habs will win the Cup ONLY with Carey Price in the Nets “

    • The Cat says:

      Oddsmakers are weary as well, they have the habs as a home underdog for this one which is a bit odd cause both teams have the same amount of wins and habs are at home.

      [Disclaimer]: I’m a hockey fan. I care about the habs, but probably not as much as you.

      • punkster says:

        Actually the one hour time difference between here and Chicago shouldn’t make anyone weary. Maybe they need to get some more sleep.

        ***Subbang Baby!!!***

        • wotever says:

          (For the non-anglophones who don’t get the joke – “wary” is the word you’re thinking of, nervous, concerned, etc., “weary” is a feeling of tiredness.)

  6. The Cat says:

    I hope the habs win cause I want Calgary to make it.

    [Disclaimer]: I’m a hockey fan. I care about the habs, but probably not as much as you.

  7. hirky says:

    The Canadiens need to take advantage of the hot ‘n’ cold Hawks. They are as fragile as the Canadiens have been this past few weeks. That needs to be exploited and the Habs need these 2 points, the Hawks have more games to play to punch their ticket. This is the Habs chance to punch their ticket to the dance. Carey Price is stellar at the Bell Centre and the Canadiens are coming off their best ‘team game’ of the season. They will bring that momentum into this game and I am predicting a 5-2 Habs win. Cammalleri nets 2, Darche, PK and Sopel(vs his old team) all get 1 goal each. For the Hawks, Toews playing his 1st game at the Bell Centre, nets both goals for Chi-town. Crawford is shaky in nets early for the Hawks as he is in awe of the crowd. The Habs get a couple early PP goals to pace them. That is my prediction.

  8. Rusty says:

    Pugnacity, Testosterone, Truculence and Belligerence. This is what we need vs. Blackhawks.

    — There has never been a better game than the 3-3 game —

  9. HABZ24 says:

    very long and informative but who cares if the hawks make the playoffs? not me. with salary caps now its not easy to keep a team together after a cup win and chi town proved that. hawks will win the game because they need it to get in, we need a loss to help us drop to 7th place and avoid boston in the first round.

    • HabFanSince72 says:

      “who cares if the hawks make the playoffs? not me”

      In that case maybe you shouldn’t read pieces with titles like “Hawks still on playoff bubble” or “Hawks not sure of a place in playoffs”, or “Hawks in 8th place but sinking fast” etc etc …

      Just a suggestion.

    • solomio says:

      Habs need to avoid most everybody!!

    • The Cat says:

      This is a prime example of why say oiler fans are well regarded and not hab fans. Hawks are the defending champs.

      [Disclaimer]: I’m a hockey fan. I care about the habs, but probably not as much as you.

  10. the_larry says:

    A Montreal win would be a huge 4 pointer: 2 points for Montreal, and 2 points lost for Chicago, which would help out Calgary huge! So even more reason to cheer for Montreal!


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