Photo: ESPN

First thing’s first: with their 5-4 win over Nashville last night, the Chicago Blackhawks have clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s the first time since 1995 that the club has managed this feat for 4 consecutive years.

And there was much rejoicing.

The story of how they got that win, however… Well, I’m going to quote Pat Foley (always a dangerous move, I realize) and say that, “It doesn’t have to be an oil painting.”

This game got off to a terrific start. The Blackhawks came out of the gate with crisp passing, aggressive back-checking and great transition offense. They pumped 7 shots at Pekka Rinne before the lines had gotten short at the concession stands. Before you know it, the ‘Hawks were on the power play, and Andrew Shaw threw himself into the scrum freeing up the puck for Patrick Sharp, who tossed one towards the crease that deflected off Rinne and landed in the goal. And so it began.

The first half of the period was nearly all Blackhawks, but the tide turned in the later minutes. Cue Corey Crawford, who began a performance that should firmly establish his status as the go-to goaltender for the Blackhawks’ playoff run.

Playoff run. Heh heh heh. The Blackhawks are in the playoffs…

Anyhow, Crawford continued to make it look easy through the middle of the second, as Dave Bolland, Patrick Kane, and Viktor Stalberg all lit the lamp. And then, something changed. Either the Predators decided they were going to start trying, or the Blackhawks began an engaging game of Scrabble on the bench, or something. But the whole tide turned at 9:29 of the second, and Blackhawks fans had to watch as the team let their hard-fought 4-0 lead slip away.

For those of you who don’t want to hear anything critical of the Blackhawks on this, the day we are celebrating the team’s inclusion into the playoffs, skip this paragraph. But this has to be said: blowing a 4-goal lead while your goaltender is putting on a clinic is a positively unforgivable thing to do to your coach and your fans. If I were a member of the Blackhawks today, I would be ashamed of the 18 minutes of catastrophe I was partially responsible for in that game, and dreading what Head Coach Joel Quenneville was going to do to me on Monday. Hopefully he makes them run stairs on all 3 levels of the United Center in full gear. That’s what I would do, and this team would never forget that you DO NOT let a 4-goal lead slip into oblivion if you want to advance in the playoffs.

But then: as if somebody had flipped a switch, it all went back the other way again. Dave Bolland darted up the ice, pulled up at the top of the circle, and flipped a shot that Rinne deflected wide. Brent Seabrook had joined the rush, retrieved the puck and smacked it high off the glass to Bryan Bickell behind the goal. He moved to the half-boards, found Andrew Shaw down low, whose backhand threaded the needle through a Nashville defender to find Seabs pinching down low. Seabrook slammed that puck home like it had just fucked his girlfriend, and that was the game-winner.

So now, instead of waiting for the last game of the year to see if Minnesota can beat Phoenix and allow Chicago to back into the playoffs, the Blackhawks can focus on getting rested and healthy while 5 teams — currently within 3 points of each other — play a game of cut-throat to determine their post-season fates. Been there, done that. Thanks, but no thanks.

Next up is a home-and-home with Minnesota, starting tonight and concluding on Thursday. Stay tuned for more updates, follow us on Facebook and Twitter using the links below.

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