Hawk Talk: Down the Stretch They Come

Hawk Talk: Down the Stretch They Come
March 23, 2010, 1:54 am
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Monday, Mar. 22, 2010
8:45 P.M.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Another week crossed off in the countdown toward the post-season, and another week of the Blackhawks knowing what they have to do before the playoffsbut still not doing it. Whatever positives were forged in their shutout victory in Los Angeles were quickly erased in their shootout defeat two nights later in Phoenix. The more defensive lapses, the more important their goaltending must be for post-season success. When those lapses are kept to a minimum, we saw the results earlier in the season. Thats the evidence, proof and belief Stan Bowman used at deadline time paired with a minimal number of willing trade partners and salary cap considerations. It wouldve been a great statement to make against the upstart Coyotes on their own ice, letting the Desert Dogs know who the Big Dogs were. But that team as the limbo over its ownership and where theyll call home drags on has certainly become reflective of the name of the city where it currently resides (Phoenix, that is, not Glendale).

While the Hawks plug away these final three weeks trying to regroup defensively, there may not more important games in their final eleven than Tuesdays rematch with the Coyotes, and the final regular season game, hosting Detroit. Thanks in part to the one that got away Saturday, Phoenix remains the only Western Conference team the Hawks have yet to beat. Should they meet again, it might do them good to know they can beat them, and have beaten them. Who knows what the value of that regular season finale will be to the Hawks and Red Wings for playoff positioning, but it also might do them good to know they can beat Detroit at full-strength, heading into the second season (provided neither team is resting up its top guns, as was the case last year). The Wings began the week showing what they can do when healthy, going 6-1-1 in their last 8, and the most favorable schedule of the contenders down the stretch has them poised to be movin on up (see below).

After Tuesday, seven of the Hawks eight games that follow are against teams on the outside of the playoff standings, looking in, with three weeks remaining. That either sets up nicely for them with teams they should beat, or can be a trap against opponents either in a state of desperation, or having nothing to lose in a spoiler role. Heres what the Wests eight playoff teams (as of March 22nd) face down the stretch in their respective schedules, along with the two teams within six points of 8th place, as well as the three teams all seven points back of the 8th spot. Since just about everyones NCAA brackets are blown up, maybe we can play the game based on their schedules of where each team will finish at the end of the regular season, and wholl be playing whom in round one.

1. Blackhawks (97 points)
11 games left Four vs. current playoff teams
Two games against teams in 9th & 10th (Calgary & St. Louis) Two games vs. three teams (Anaheim, Minnesota, Dallas) all seven points back2. Phoenix (97 points)
Nine games remaining Seven against current playoff teams One game vs. 9th-place Calgary Zero games vs. ANA, MIN, or DAL3. Vancouver (92 pts)
10 games left Five against current playoff teams One game vs. Calgary Three games against the three teams all seven points back (2 - ANA, 1 - MIN)4. San Jose (96 pts)
10 games remaining Five games vs. current playoff teams
One game against Calgary
Four games vs. the three within seven points of 8th place (2 - MIN, 2 - DAL)5. Nashville (89 pts)
Nine games left Five against current playoff teams Two games vs. St. Louis
One game vs. Dallas
6. Los Angeles (87 pts)
11 games remaining Five games vs. current post-season teams
One game against St. Louis
Four games vs. the trio seven back (1 - DAL, 1 - MIN, 2 - ANA)7. Colorado (86 pts)
10 games left Seven games vs. playoff teams One game against Calgary One vs. ANA8. Detroit (85 pts)
10 games left Four games against playoff teams Have a 7-1-1 record in last nine games
One game left vs. Minnesota and St. Louis
9. Calgary (81 pts)
10 games left Seven games against current playoff clubs Zero games vs. St. Louis
Two games against the three teams within seven points (ANA, MIN)10. St. Louis (77 pts)
10 games remaining Six opposite current playoff teams Zero games vs. Calgary Two games vs. teams 11-13 (DAL, ANA)11. Anaheim (76 pts)
10 games left Five games against current playoff clubs One game vs. St. Louis
Two games against Dallas12. Minnesota (76 pts)
10 games remaining Seven games vs. current playoff teams One game against Calgary One game vs. Dallas13. Dallas (76 pts)
10 games left Five games opposite playoff clubs One game against St. Louis
Three games vs. other teams with 76 points (2 - ANA, 1 - MIN)
Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pregame and Postgame Live on ComcastSportsNet.