Excellent Smithers, . . . . Excellent.
Everything is coming up Milhouse for the Chicago Blackhawks it would seem. With the end of the regular season coming with yesterday's super early Detroit game, the Hawks now know exactly where they stand and who they will be playing, and I have to say that it just might be the best scenario that could have played out. Ending up in the 6th spot overall, by allowing Detroit a point in said game, the Hawks are now scheduled to face off against the Coyotes in round 1 of the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Oddly enough, The Hawks and Yotes are teams 10 and 11 in the league standings wise, and the Hawks were 1-2-1 against them for this season. It is my opinion that the Hawks play better hockey and have a better chance of winning against the Yotes than they do the Preds or Kings, hence my jubilation at how things worked out in the final days.
This might have something to do with why the Hawks and Wings seemed uninterested in winning the game outright yesterday. Still, the Hawks showed Detroit fans once again, that if these two teams should happen to meet in this years playoffs, it will be the Hawks who have the upper hand. But, with the Wings grinning down the barrel of a gun named the Nashville Predators, this is an unlikely occurrence. And in keeping with their pattern of the year, the Hawks jumped out harder than their opponent, showing just why they would be favored in this match-up, and then gave the game away in the 3rd by taking it easy and proving once again that they are not the best at playing with a lead.
The scoring started with a Stalberg goal, as he crashed the net for rebound after Sharp and company did an amazing job keeping the puck from exiting the zone. I do not find it shocking that Andrew Shaw would be the second goal scorer and in similar fashion when he crashed the net to jam the puck home. Both ended a good season on a high by doing exactly what they should be doing, and it has me anticipating good things in the coming weeks.
Say what you will about Shaw, the kid has a gift for putting pucks in the net. It is the greatest gift to have in this line of work, and maybe he can spare some to sprinkle on Frolik. We all know how I feel about Stalberg, who ends with 22 goals, a number I anticipate he destroys next year.
As noted, the Hawks let up in the 3rd, and the game quickly started to shift in the Wings favor. Could this have been the result of the Hawks not really wanting the regulation win, or was it just par for the course of this season? Well, it did take another possible shutout away from Crawford, as the Hawks were unable to perform such an action throughout the entire season, and I feel like it speaks volumes about the club. And in similar fashion, the pucks just seemed to find holes passed Crawford without any real purpose to their direction. Throw pucks at Crawford, and something is bound to go in. You can count on that this year. Maybe, Crow was getting it all out of his system for the playoffs. Either way you look at it, losing a game in the final seconds is never a good thing.
Seriously, this games seemed like a bad example of de-ja-vu, as the Hawks went to the shootout once again this week. At least it was entertaining. It started with Datsyuk attempting a through the legs move on Crow. I know this move well, because I happen to have mastered it myself. It totally fooled Crow, but Dats missed his mark with the shot. The trick is to actually shoot while the puck is behind you still. Makes goalies go crazy. Maybe next time.
This either inspired Kaner, or he has just figured out how talented he is with the puck, and that anything less than amazing in the shootout is a disappointment from a guy with his skills. He also brought a between the legs move, but a different version of it, and with less purpose. It was more of a look what I can do, and who knows what will happen next kind of thing, because he pulled it off too far out from the net. Regardless, he continued to juke and jive his way across the slot and slid the puck under a confused Howard. That was all that needed to be written and the Hawks pick up the 2 points, but mainly some bragging rights.
- If you missed it, Ray Emery was given a 1 year 1.5 million contract with the Hawks. Guess he is coming back, and I am glad to see it. He is a great back-up, and depending on how Crow works things out, a strong possibility to see a ton of games next year.
- As noted throughout the past few weeks, the Sharp/Stalberg/Kruger line continues to do great things. Much in part to the explosion of Stalberg, but also to the hard work ethic of Kruger, and in a large way an example of how well Sharp is playing right now. I feel we might overlook this aspect of the Hawks play right now, kind of like a given, but Sharp has been awesome.
- Although I still have no evidence as to why and how Crawford ended up becoming our number 1 goaltender heading into the playoffs, I still have to be happy with what he has given us these past few weeks. He just might walk in and steal a few games.
- BTW, I prefer Lepisto over O'D.
In the end, the Hawks gave a well rounded effort, and provided enough energy to be excited for their chances in the playoffs which are now upon us. I am surprised that Jerry Kane hasn't popped his head in here for a great length of time, as I am curious what the hockey gods have to say about the Hawks chances, but I guess I will give my 2 cents anyway.
Goaltending and the power-play will be the 2 most important factors.
Whether or not this is a good or bad prediction, I see the Hawks going deep, and I fear that it could very well be to the detriment of next year. Again, I highly suggest moving Hossa into a shut-down role at this point as his pattern of play during the playoffs seems already solidified in the what we have recently seen from him. I also suggest that Frolik gets a little more ice-time as he has shown well lately. Toews will hopefully come back by game 2 or 3 and this will give the Hawks enough juice to make the Conference Finals. I would say that their chances of going to the Finals is as good as any other Western team as long as goaltending is left out of the equation as that area seems like a crapshoot right now. So, there it is. Toews returns, the Hawks do well, and we get to watch a lot more hockey followed by some analyzing that will probably look too far into things.
Let the real games begin!