Hawks clinch playoff berth with win over Nashville

Hawks clinch playoff berth with win over Nashville

It wasn't always pretty, and for a while it was certainly in doubt, but the Blackhawks rallied in the 3rd period to beat the Nashville Predators 5-3, and became the first team in the NHL this season to clinch a playoff berth.

While the Hawks and Predators exchanged leads, the 3rd period began tied 2-2. It was then that Joel Quenneville decided to do some of his patented line shuffling, and it paid off big time. Patrick Kane, who had spent the last couple of games skating on the 2nd line with Marcus Kruger and Daniel Carcillo, was bumped to the 1st line in place of Marian Hossa.

That was the spark the Hawks needed. For a team that's had it's share of 3rd period woes over the last couple of weeks, the shuffle seemed to change the mindset from "protect/prevent" to "attack", and that's just what the new 1st line did. They combined for six 3rd period points, including Toews' game winner and Kane's empty netter.

RANDOM OBSERVATIONS

Ray Emery was again strong in his second start in as many nights. It remains to be seen if there's truly a "goalie controversy" brewing, but it's certainly a luxury to have two goalies posting number one goalie type performances night after night. Quenneville has ridden the hot hand all season, and I'd expect that to continue. If the playoffs began today, I still think Corey Crawford is the man...at least in Quenneville's mind.

When the Blackhawks acquired Michal Handzus, I was underwhelmed to say the least. It looked like Brendan Morrisson 2.0, and I expected his impact to be somewhat minimal. Sure, he's a guy that won faceoffs and killed penalties, but he's been a presence in his limited ice time with the Blackhawks. The faceoff wins are there (65% since joining the Hawks), but he's been a factor in front of the net and beautifully assisted on Bryan Bickell's game winning goal Saturday night in Nashville. The 2nd line center problem still hasn't been addressed, but I'm liking the Handzus trade so far. It was a wise move for Stan Bowman to pick him up in case he missed out on deadline day.

Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp both missed tonight's game, but Quenneville said there's a "good chance" Sharp travels with the team to Minnesota for Tuesday night's game against the Wild. Quenneville was unsure if Bolland would make the trip, but said "We don't think it's serious", when asked about the nature of his injury.

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