Hawk Talk: Down the Stretch They Come

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Hawk Talk: Down the Stretch They Come

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.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' shutout win over Bruins

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night:

1. A sluggish start.

The Blackhawks have gotten off to some solid starts lately, scoring the game's first goal in the opening frame in five of their last six contests heading into Friday. But they were lucky to get out of the first in a 0-0 tie this time.

They had 15 shot attempts (six on goal) through the first 20 minutes while the Bruins had 30 attempts (17 on goal). Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Scott Darling stopped all of them that came his way.

Boston's third line of Ryan Spooner, Riley Nash and David Backes dominated possession, leading all skaters with a plus-12 Corsi in the period.  

2. Scott Darling steals two points.

Joel Quenneville decided to go with Darling in an effort to give a slumping Corey Crawford a chance to reset, and the Lemont native an opportunity to play in front of his father away from home, where he's used to watching him shine. It's safe to say he made his papa proud by putting on a great show.

Darling turned aside all 30 shots he faced, including 17 in the first period, for his second shutout of the season and fourth of his career. He has now allowed two or fewer goals in eight of his last 12 starts. 

Asked after the game whether he will earn a second straight start Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks, Quenneville responded, "We'll see."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Special teams not a factor.

In a game that featured only one goal, you'd think the way to crack the scoresheet would be on the man advantage. That didn't happen.

The Blackhawks went 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Bruins failed to cash in on their only two opportunities. Boston entered the contest by going 7-for-17 on the power play in their previous five games, good for a 41.2 success rate.

It was a nice bounce-back game for the Blackhawks' penalty kill unit, which allowed a goal on the man advantage in their previous two games.

4. Third line steps up at crucial moment.

The Blackhawks' third line of Vinnie Hinostroza, Marian Hossa and Tanner Kero had the worst possession numbers among all skaters, each registering a 24 percent Corsi or below. But when their team needed them the most, they stepped up.

With 1:26 left in regulation, Hossa ended his 10-game goal drought by burying home a terrific feed from Kero to snap a 0-0 tie and give the Blackhawks their second consecutive win. It's Hossa's 17th goal of the campaign, which ties Artemi Panarin for second on the team, and his fifth game-winning goal of the year. His 83 career game-winning goals now ranks 24th in NHL history, surpassing Mike Bossy, and remains fifth among active players.

Hossa's goal also moved him within a tie of Pierre Turgeon for 37th on the all-time goals list with 516.

Kero has six points in his last six games, while Hinostroza has two goals and one assist in his past two.

5. Despite recent struggles, Bruins in good hands with Claude Julien.

It seems like this is a discussion every year, but firing Julien would be a huge mistake for a Bruins team that fell to 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. They're still the No. 1 possession team in the NHL, controlling 55.42 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, and give up the fifth-fewest high danger scoring chances with 326, according the naturalstattrick.com. They average the second-most shots on goal per game at 33.9, and allow the second-fewest at 26.5.

To back it up, their PDO is 97.5 percent, the sum of a team's even-strength save percentage and shooting percentage that usually works it way toward 100, which indicates they're due for a fairly large correction. They're not getting bounces right now, but they're playing the right way and a change behind the bench would be a step in the wrong direction, considering Julien is easily a top-five coach in the NHL.

Marian Hossa scores game winner as Blackhawks beat Bruins

Marian Hossa scores game winner as Blackhawks beat Bruins

BOSTON (AP) — Marian Hossa scored with 1:26 left to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.

Scott Darling stopped 30 shots for his second shutout of the season.

Tuukka Rask made 21 saves for Boston, which has lost three straight games and four of its last five.

It was a rematch of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, when Chicago scored twice in the final 76 seconds of the third period in Game 6 to overcome a one-goal deficit and claim the NHL title.

This time, the game was scoreless before the Blackhawks made their final charge. The puck made its way to Tanner Kero on Rask’s left; he slid it across the crease for Hossa, who put it in the net.