EDMONTON, Alberta – The victory on Wednesday night basically put a cap on the Blackhawks’ regular season. They already had the Central Division captured; same with the Western Conference. On Wednesday, they collected the Presidents’ Trophy.
And throughout the locker room, the talk turned to being at their top level for the postseason. With just two regular-season games remaining, the best way the Blackhawks can do that is by sitting some of their top players.
The Blackhawks host Calgary on Friday night before wrapping up the regular season in St. Louis on Saturday. Considering everything they’ve done already, there’s nothing left to prove. There’s nothing else they can win in games 47 and 48. So sit a few guys.
Sit Marian Hossa, who’s back to form after coming off a shoulder injury in March.
Sit Patrick Sharp, who has been out twice with a shoulder injury and had a brief knee scare late in Wednesday night’s game.
Sit Duncan Keith, who, while he’s played fewer minutes this season, will probably up that time on ice come the playoffs.
And sit Jonathan Toews, who’s taken his knocks against the Blues (mostly via David Backes) in recent matchups. Even if you have to duct-tape the captain to his stall to make sure he doesn’t try to sneak in, do it.
Coach Joel Quenneville has been cagy on what he’ll do, rest-wise, down this stretch –- “we’ll visit with some options right now,” he said following Wednesday’s game. Some of the role players have sat a game or two recently (Michal Handzus on Monday, Michael Frolik on Wednesday), be it for rest or to get others into the lineup. Now it’s time for the stars to do the same.
The Blackhawks’ mantra, throughout this season, has been to improve every game. We get that, and they’ve done that. Considering how well they’ve played, how consistent they’ve been and how confident they are, a game or two without some of the top players isn’t going to wreck their overall game.
The “second season” is about to begin. This is what the Blackhawks have been focused on since they got off to that 24-game unbeaten streak. This is when they want to be at their best, collect more hardware to add to that Presidents’ Trophy. Their top guys don’t have to worry about honing their games at this point. They know what they can do; so does everybody else.
Give ‘em a rest.