2010-11 Game Previews
In the past these previews have been about the opposing team and any personnel changes we expect to see from the Blackhawks. So here goes. We’re playing the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they suck. They are without leading scorer Rick Nash and #1 goaltender Steve Mason, so this should be an even easier game to win. No lineup changes for the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford starts.
Now let’s talk about what everybody’s interested in: the playoff race, and the Blackhawks’ chances.
Some teams have clinched Division titles or playoff spots, so they aren’t relevant. Neither are the teams that are (for all practical purposes) mathematically eliminated from the race in the West. That leaves the following teams:
4th: Phoenix (95 points, 4 games remaining, 37 non-shootout wins)
5th: Los Angeles (94, 5, 35)
6th: Nashville (94, 4, 36)
7th: Anaheim (93, 5, 40)
8th: Chicago (90, 6, 36)
9th: Dallas (87, 6, 33)
10th: Calgary (87, 4, 29)
Now, I’m not a stats wonk, I don’t do probability calculations and all of that nonsense. So I’m just going to run down the rest of each team’s season and lob my guesses at where we may end up.
Phoenix will likely beat Colorado, lose in OT with the Kings, and split the last two against the Sharks. That gives them an extra 5 points, total of 100.
LA has suffered significant injuries in the last week, I’m going to say they beat the Coyotes in OT, push the Ducks into OT once and fall in a shootout, and then lose the rest. 3 more points, total of 97.
Nashville will lose to Detroit, but win out their last 3. 6 points, total of 100.
Anaheim will split with the Sharks, lose to the Stars, and beat the Kings twice, once in OT. 6 more points, total of 99.
Chicago I’ll save for a minute.
Dallas will beat both the Kings and the Ducks, I’ll say they split against the Avalanche, and beat Columbus and Minnesota. 10 points. 97 total.
Calgary will lose to Vancouver, but take their other 3. 6 points, total of 93.
If that proves out (HA! Yeah, right…) the standings (minus Chicago) will look like this:
4th: Phoenix (100 points, 39 non-shootout wins)
5th: Nashville (100, 39)
6th: Anaheim (99, 40)
7th: Dallas (97, 38)
8th: Los Angeles (97, 36)
9th: Calgary (93, 32)
So now, to the Blackhawks.
Remaining games: Blue Jackets, Lightning, Canadiens, Blues, and Detroit (*spitting noise*) twice.
We have to beat Columbus. Hear me guys? WE HAVE TO BEAT COLUMBUS! We pushed the Lightning to OT in their building last time, I think we’re going to pull it out this time. We will beat the Canadiens, they’re sliding of late. 6 more points, 3 more NSW. That would put us at 96 points, 39 NSW. Not good enough.
We’ll need another win from among the last three against the Blues and Red Wings. And this is what it all comes down to.
In the next ten days we will find out who is going to be playing for the Blackhawks next year. Who is going to step it up when we’re down two goals early in the 3rd in a possibly-season-ending game? Who is going to dog Henrik Zetterberg until he goes to the bench and cries? Who is going to back-check the Wings so hard they can’t tell which goal they’re supposed to be shooting at? Who is going to knock Todd Bertuzzi out of the game and into the hospital in the first minute of the first game of that home-and-home? Who is going to take the punishment in front of the net and notch a tip-in goal for every bruise they get across their backs? Who is going to block shots like he’s protecting a 5-year-old girl wearing street clothes in the net behind him? And who is going to absorb 35, 45, 55 shots and THEN win it in the shootout?
We all know the names of the guys who will be there. But who will join them? Bryan Bickell? Troy Brouwer? Viktor Stalberg? Jake Dowell? Ryan Johnson? These guys all have the mojo, they just haven’t found it the last 20 games. If it shows up between now and April 10th, we have a shot at this.
If not… well, this post-season will be difficult to watch without a team to cheer for.
6pm puck drop tonight out in Columbus. Comcast SportsNet has the TV coverage, broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers can hear the game on channel 204.
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The guy you’re looking at here is the leading contender for the Vezina trophy, given to the league’s top goaltender. He won the title back in 2008-09, had a startlingly bad year in 2009-10, and has now come back just as strong as he was two seasons ago. He’s big, covers a lot of the net, but is also mobile. It’s as if his hands are magnets: the pucks are just drawn to them. 32 wins, 2.00 goals-against, and a .939 save percentage. And he’s just now starting to hit his stride.
Vezina… You know, if you replace the ‘ez’ with ‘ag’ it— never mind…
With eight games remaining and the Blackhawks clinging to eighth place, they’ve managed to put themselves in one of the most hated positions any of us could possibly dream: The Red Wings will be a major hurdle in the ‘Hawks chances to make the playoffs.
Tonight begins the first of three meetings against Detroit before the regular season ends. That’s about as appetizing as a shit sandwich topped with wet farts.
Just for some quick added pessimism, the last Stanley Cup champion to miss the next year’s playoffs was the 2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s a positive: Pavel Datsuyk won’t play tonight, and Johan Franzen sat out Saturday’s 4-2 Wings win against Toronto. Jimmy Howard is day-to-day after injuring his shoulder against the Maple Leafs, and with Chris Osgood on long-term IR, it looks as if Jimmy MacDonald will be in net tonight.
There are three stories of interest coming out of Anaheim these days. The first is that Teemu Selanne, in the words of one sports reporter, refuses to act his age. The second is the eruption of winger Corey Perry, who has 15 points (including 11 goals) in his last 8 games. And finally is a goaltending conundrum that has three brand-name goaltenders struggling to put two wins together as the team claws towards a playoff spot.
The Ducks and the Blackhawks have both won 3 of their last 4 games, they are both locked in a tight battle for a playoff spot (the ‘Hawks in 7th, the Ducks in 8th in the Western Conference Standings), and they are both handing bonus points to opponents by allowing games to be pushed into overtime. Neither team can lose this game — but somebody will.
A little over two weeks ago, a cocky Blackhawks team took their 8-game winning streak for a little sun and fun in Miami, and promptly got their asses handed to them in a 3-goal first period melt-down that resulted in a 3 – 2 loss to the team sitting 26th out of 30 in the league. It was the anemic start to a dismal 3-game road trip that yielded a mere two out of a possible six points. Humiliating. Eye-opening. Infuriating.
It’s time to get some payback, gentlemen.
With the bulk of the hockey headlines coming out of southern Arizona being about legal battles and ownership changes and Gary Bettman stomping his feet like a child being told he can’t have candy at the supermarket, it’s easy to forget that there’s actually a hockey team there.
A team that is in fourth in the Western Conference, nipping at the heels of Division leader San Jose. A team on a five-game winning streak. A team that has scored the seventh-most goals in the league, yet has not one single 20-goal scorer. Although with two of their players named Lauri and Adrian, I’m not sure how seriously we’re supposed to take them.
I wish there was more time to celebrate these wins. After handing the San Jose Sharks their jock straps and a bus ticket on Monday night, it would have been great to sit back and savor the moment a little longer than just two days. But alas, there’s business to attend to, and tonight that business is in Dallas.
How many times can we use the phrase, “must-win” in a single year? What about “do-or-die?” Or “crunch time?” It seems I’m typing those phrases almost daily now, and this is no exception. With the Blackhawks’ OTL to the Capitals on Sunday, Chicago dropped into 7th in the Western Conference standings, just two points from having to fluff the throw pillows before playoff games.
And look who we’re playing! The San Jose Sharks, who sit first in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of us, and who are looking for a sweep in their season series against the ‘Hawks.
Long and short: if we thought Washington was a hard-fought game, this one is going to be even worse.
Any of you who watched the “Penguins/Capitals 24/7″ show on HBO got an earful of Capitals Head Coach Bruce Boudreau hitting below the belt on his team in the locker room following the latest in a string of humiliating losses due to lackluster play. The quote above was the most memorable of the diatribe.
As if getting checked for a hernia wasn’t humiliating enough, now we have this ringing in our heads.
It was one game. And really, it was just one period. The Blackhawks ran circles around the Panthers and launched 29 shots on goal in the second and third on Tuesday night. They just didn’t get the bounces and were up against a very talented, very lucky goaltender guarding the twine.
So, that happened. Cough it up, spit it out, and forget about it. Tonight we’re playing one of the hottest, most talented teams in the Tampa Bay Lightning. We’re going to have to put together a 60-minute performance that looks like our 40-minute performance last night.
The LAST 40 minutes.