The Hawks went into Edmonton last night, needing two points to lock up their first President's Trophy in 22 years. They came out with a 4-1 win, which clinched the best record in the NHL and home-ice advantage throughout the entire playoffs.
Captain Jonathan Toews got the Hawks on the board first with a blazing wrister, which beat Devan Dubnyk like a rented goalie.
However, just fifty-two seconds later, Nail Yakupov evened the score with a slapper from the near side that Ray Emery was unable to see. The goal came off a turnover via Drew LeBlanc, who was skating in his very first shift for the Hawks. LeBlanc (Le-Blah?), who won the Hobey Baker Trophy - the award given to the best player in the NCAA - this past year, while playing for St. Cloud State, dressed and played in his first professional game last night.
Patrick Kane gave the Hawks the lead, towards the end of the first period, when he snuck ahead on a breakaway, off a beautiful steal and pass from Michal Handzus, and beat Dubnyk through the 5-hole.
Ray Emery re-aggravated his lower-body injury that sidelined the Hawks' backup goalie for a handful of games leading up to his start last night. Corey Crawford loosened up, threw on the mask and nestled in between the pipes to shutout the Oilers the rest of the game.
Crawford snagged a shot from Jordan Eberle in the second period, which will more than likely be a candidate for save of the year, or even play of the year. Crawford merely reached out and plucked the scorching Eberle blast from thin air, as though time slowed down while being inside the Matrix.
After a scoreless second period, the Hawks added two more goals in the third with a shot from Johnny Oduya and, lastly, an empty-net goal from Patrick Sharp with 1 minute, 42 seconds left in the contest. That iced it, and the Hawks began to high five on the bench in celebration of clinching the best record in the NHL.
After 46 games, the Hawks find themselves with an astounding 35-6-5 record, division champs, Western Conference champs and, now, Presidents' Trophy recipients. And while the hardware and accolades are great, the team seems as focused as they were from game one when they beat the defending Cup champion Kings in Los Angeles.
There's no need to rehash what happened to the last time the Hawks won the Presidents' Trophy, some 22 years ago. The early exit from the hands of Dave Gagner and the Minnesota North Stars has left a bad taste in many Hawks' fans mouths.
And while the trophy has significance in meaning, the players on Coach Joel Quenneville's squad aren't letting it overtake their focus.
“It’s a cool thing that people talk about, but they won’t talk about it very long,” Toews said of the trophy, leading up to last night's game. “It’s not that important.
The Hawks look to finish out the final two regular-season games tomorrow (hosting Calgary) and Saturday (at St. Louis), while more than likely making a few calls to Rockford for some call-ups. The Ice Hogs' season is over and this will provide some limited minutes for the likes of Patrick Sharp and other who might be dinged up from the sprint that was the 2013 season.
Word is flying around that the playoffs are set to begin next Wednesday, May 1, with the Hawks, as of this morning, set to take on the eighth-seeded Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are one point behind Minnesota for the seventh seed and one point ahead of Columbus for making tee times.
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