Monday, April 2, 2012

The Blackhawks: sitting fairly pretty and taking no guff

Posted By on 04.02.12 at 02:20 PM

The Hawks Andrew Shaw puts the pug in pugnacious.
The Blackhawks lost to the surprisingly ornery Minnesota Wild in a shootout Sunday night in their regular-season home finale, but the point they earned with the tie in regulation was just about right.

With but a few games to go for all teams, the Hawks are sitting fairly pretty as the sixth seed in the NHL's Western Conference. Since the NHL seats the three division winners atop each conference in the Stanley Cup playoff seedings, that means the Hawks are lined up to play the relatively weak winner of the Pacific Division, currently the Los Angeles Kings, whose 91 points would have them seeded below the Hawks' 98 otherwise. From there, they'd most likely advance to play the Blues in a classic matchup between Saint Louis coach Ken Hitchcock's defensive system and the Hawks' offensive firepower. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

So the single point to keep the Hawks tied with Nashville and a point behind Detroit—both with a game in hand as well entering the final week—kept them lined up to play the Kings, or whoever emerges as the Pacific winner.

Not to suggest the Hawks weren't trying to win.

The Hawks fell behind time and again, but tied the game at one and two—the second on a lovely cut to center ice and backhander by Viktor Stalberg—before almost immediately falling behind 4-2. They crawled back to tie it on a couple of goals by Patrick Kane, who also put them ahead with the first goal in the shootout before the Wild won the extra frame 2-1.

Testifying even more to the Hawks' determination, they took no guff from a chippy Minnesota team of playoff also-rans and got into three fights, including this one involving Andrew Shaw and the Wild's Cody Almond, who according to the rosters had at least four inches and 20 pounds on the Hawks' pugnacious rookie.

So the Hawks are playing for victories first, as they should, and let the playoff seedings fall where they may. They'll most likely have their destiny in their own hands when they play their regular-season finale in Detroit against the archrival Red Wings on Saturday.

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