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.

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

Dwyane Wade's near-miss of a triple-double caused by friendly Felicio fire

In a season where the triple-double has become commonplace to the point of stat chasing in the effort to chase history, Dwyane Wade didn't mind snatching his own piece of turf.

In a game where teammate Jimmy Butler reached the feat for the first time this season, it would've been doubly satisfactory for Wade to achieve the fifth triple-double of his career.

One rebound away in the final seconds of the Bulls' 117-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the memo didn't reach Cristiano Felicio, who reached over Wade to grab a rebound, causing it to harmlessly fall out of bounds and ending Wade's chance at history.

After Wade finished with 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in 34 minutes, he was asked if he "hated" Felicio for interrupting his moment.

"No hate. Just a strong dislike, though," said Wade with a wry smile. "You know how long it's been since I had a triple double? It's been a long time."

It's been six years, as his last triple-double came in the 2010-11 season with the Miami Heat, achieving the feat with a 22-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist performance against the then-Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 4, 2011.

Even more than the statistical feat was Wade's variety, as he grabbed seven rebounds in the decisive third-quarter run that broke the game open, hitting Butler and Bobby Portis for long touchdown passes that would've had Jay Cutler or whichever quarterback the Cleveland Browns are banking on next fall, blushing.

Perhaps even more impressive was the fact it was on the second night of a back-to-back with the Bulls winning in overtime against the Phoenix Suns—a game where Wade turned it up late then threw it down over Alex Len in overtime.

"I think we just found our groove," Wade said. "We've had some injuries that have gone on but we're playing good basketball."

More pointedly, so is Wade, aided by him often finding Felicio for easy dunks on the pick and roll as they play second and fourth quarters together. 

Felicio was clearly bothered by his gaffe, which was made worse by the take-no-prisoners approach from Wade and Butler. When a member of foreign media approached him about an interview, Felicio said "you're not asking me about that last rebound, are you?"

Later in the evening, Felicio went to Twitter, posting "I did not know!!" in reference to Wade's night.

"I told him I didn't not even gonna act like I ain't mad at him. I'm very mad at him," said Wade with a laugh. "But he's all good. He said he didn't see me down there. So he took a shot at my height. It's cool. Jimmy had one. It would've been nice to have two triple doubles."

"I'm sure a stat would've came out that would've said, ‘Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler are the first duo to get a triple-double on a back-to-back since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen', since they got every record around here."

He was close, although Jordan and Pippen didn't achieve their feat on a back-to-back but a random night in the 1988-89 season. Jordan scored 41 with 11 assists and 10 rebounds and Pippen had 15 with 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a 126-121 overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We laugh about that often, but it's all good," Wade said. "I gotta work harder till I get another one one day."

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