Just win: Blackhawks insist playoff opponent doesn't matter


Just win: Blackhawks insist playoff opponent doesn't matter

DETROIT Round and round the playoff scenarios go. How they play out for the Blackhawks? Nobody knows. Yet.

Will the Blackhawks face a familiar Central Division foe? Will they instead face a Pacific Division opponent that will have quite a few points less than they? Do point totals, when the second season begins, even matter?

You know what? Its a new season, Bryan Bickell said. Everybody starts at zero.

The Blackhawks playoff picture is still a little muddled, and they could play their part in clearing it up Saturday when they play the Detroit Red Wings. If the Blackhawks win in regulation, theyll finish fifth and would play the Nashville Predators in the first round next week. If they win in overtime or a shootout, or lose, theyll finish in sixth and play the Pacific champ whoever the heck wins that division.

But for the Blackhawks, it doesnt really matter. The playoffs are when the slate is wiped clean and every team has as good a chance as the other seven to make some noise.

You have to play every top team to get to the main goal, Bickell said. Were going to look at whoever we play, adjust to their style, and do our best from there.

Yes, but its still so tempting to look at regular-season series results and think, hmmm, would this be a good idea? Take the Blackhawks series against the Predators. Nashville won four of those six games, with the Hawks taking the first and last of the series. It wasnt always pretty, but at least one player wouldnt mind the Nashville matchup.

You guys talk about staying away from Nashville, but I dont know if that would be that bad. I wouldnt mind playing a team a little closer, said Viktor Stalberg. It takes a toll on your body, going out west. If youre going to win, youre going to have to go through some good teams, no matter what the round. I dont think anyone just wants to get by the first round. From my own preference, it would be to play a team thats closer.

To get that, the Blackhawks would have to get that fifth seed, and they have every intention of going for it at Joe Louis Arena Saturday.

Our focus is to play the right way. Weve got one game left before the playoffs and we want to play the right way and get ready for the playoffs, said Jamal Mayers, who hasnt been guessing playoff matchups.

We really dont have much control over it; there are so many different scenarios. We have to focus on ourselves and get ready. It certainly looks like well start on the road, so that creates another challenge.

Coach Joel Quenneville concurred.

We always play to win, he said. We coach the same way.

The playoff picture will finally be clear late Saturday night. The Blackhawks could end up close by or two time zones away. Theyll be ready one way or another. Because ultimately, its about how the Blackhawks are playing. Not who they are playing.

Were feeling good about our game and confident going into any series, Stalberg said. Its come down to (a few things). We have to pick up our special teams. And if we play 5 on 5 like we have the last 15 games or so, well be in pretty good shape.

Reports: Dolphins assistant Jeremiah Washburn to be Bears' new O-line coach

Reports: Dolphins assistant Jeremiah Washburn to be Bears' new O-line coach

The Bears have reportedly found a new offensive line coach.

According to multiple reports Monday, Jeremiah Washburn will become the team's new offensive line coach, replacing Dave Magazu.

Washburn worked as an assistant offensive line coach this past season with the Miami Dolphins under Adam Gase, the Bears' former offensive coordinator.

Prior to his season in South Florida, he spent seven seasons with the Detroit Lions, working three of them as the team's offensive line coach after three as an assistant offensive line coach.

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This past season, the Bears ranked 17th in the NFL in rushing with 1,735 yards as a team. Only eight teams allowed fewer sacks than the Bears, who saw quarterbacks dropped by opposing defenses just 28 times. Bears quarterbacks were hit 73 teams, also a top-10 mark in the league.

The Bears also committed a good number of holding penalties, 1.68 per game, which was only bested by seven teams.

Magazu was a longtime member of John Fox's staffs in Chicago, Denver and Carolina.

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Patrick Kane was summing up the Blackhawks' weekend, one that didn't go well in terms of points.

"Good way to kind of judge ourselves, where we're at," he said Sunday night. "Might be a little bit of a wake-up call to see how good we really are."

Well, in a way, it is. You can't really compare Friday's loss to Washington and Sunday's loss to Minnesota on performance; the Blackhawks didn't show up for the first game and were much better in the second. Nevertheless, it was the same result in each. The Blackhawks' lengthy hold on first place in the Western Conference ended, with the Wild taking over following Sunday's 3-2 victory.

It's not a sound-the-alarm situation, but the Blackhawks are certainly cognizant of the missed opportunity last weekend and that they came up short against the league's best.

Artem Anisimov agreed with Kane's assessment.

"We just need to play better. All four lines need to play better in all areas of the ice. Just be better in the little things," Anisimov said. "Back check, put stick in the right position, box the guy out, short shifts. All little things need to be better."

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Many of the little things that were absent against the Capitals were back against the Wild. But coach Joel Quenneville wasn't happy with mistakes made on goals allowed, especially the first two. And while Kane and the second line were a consistent scoring threat against the Wild, the other three lines weren't. It's a problem that's plagued the Blackhawks a good deal this season, even when they were stringing together victories.

There is no reason to think that, because of this weekend's results, the Blackhawks are going to falter against strong teams. They've done well against others already this season. They beat Montreal earlier this season, when the Canadiens were healthy and steamrolling everyone. They beat the New York Rangers when the Rangers and former Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta were on their respective hot streaks.

Still, Kane's analysis is correct: This should get the Blackhawks' attention. The Wild have beaten the Blackhawks in eight consecutive regular-season games now and will face them three more times this season. They have two more meetings with the Edmonton Oilers, who beat them soundly in November.

The Blackhawks' long reign atop the Western Conference standings is over. They’re currently second in the Central Division, with an eight-point cushion over the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks have done fairly well this season. But this weekend was a reminder that they can be better.

"The game (on Friday) was kind of like a shock to the system thinking maybe you're one of the top teams in the league, or being able to compete with one of the top teams, and we obviously got thoroughly outplayed. We came back (Sunday night). It was pretty even in chances. We might've even had more so, just kind of didn't pull it out," Kane said. "But (when) you've played two of the better teams in the league and lose, there's got to be room for improvement, right?"