NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues

Almost There: Blues 2, Blackhawks 1

Box Score

Event Summary

War on Ice

In the spirit of what’s going on around here lately (on the ice and on this blog), this won’t be your traditional wrap.

Let’s get one thing straight. It would be nice if the Hawks were winning these past three games 2-1 or 3-2. A bounce here or a bounce there, and it easily could’ve swung that way. The Hawks have played responsibly enough defensively and have gotten the goaltending. This is the most important takeaway from the past few weeks. Don’t forget that.

With all that being said, I don’t think it would really change anyone’s anxiety level heading into the playoffs. With the Kings gone, there isn’t a team in the West that appears it’s going to be a steamroller. This is as wide open as the Western Conference has ever been since….I don’t even know. Maybe 2012? That year it seemed like any team could’ve walked away with it until the Kings got hotter than a pistol (or whatever the saying is).

Hockey traditionalists and meatballs won’t want to hear it but these playoffs are going to come down to a combination of luck, health and depth. It’s really wide open and if you have followed the Hawks for the past 7 or 8 years, you have to like those odds.

Let’s break down their playoff runs.

’08-09: Lose to Detroit in WCF; Detroit was clearly the better team. No shame in losing that.

’09-10: Duh

’10-11: This was a pretty putrid Hawks team that lucked into the playoffs on the last minute of the season when Minnesota beat Dallas. Their draw was a Vancouver team that was the best in the league. Those first three games, the Canucks completely outclassed the Hawks. For the Hawks to come back and take the series to a coin flip is probably the beginning of where this mythical “on-off”switch was born.

’11-12: For the Hawks to lose against the Coyotes, it took Marian Hossa dying at the hand of Raffi Torres in game 3, Corey Crawford laying some massive turds in overtime in back to back games and Mike Smith playing the best hockey of his career. And the Hawks still almost pushed that series to a coin flip.

’12-13: Again, no reminder.

’13-14: A coin flip against the Kings in what was the deciding game for the Stanley Cup. This coming after the Hawks were pushed to the brink in Game 5.

So here’s the theme to remember as the Hawks head into the playoffs: As long as the Hawks stay healthy, it’s going to take some very special circumstances to knock them out or it will come down to a coin flip. This core has proven that when the games are most important, they don’t go down easy. With the exception of the losses against Detroit and Vancouver, you could make the case that a couple different bounces and those seasons could’ve ended up pretty special.

That’s why hockey can be the most infuriating and exciting playoffs. It’s so random and so unpredictable that you could make an argument nearly every year that the “best” team didn’t win the Cup.

As you take a look around at the other Western Conference teams in the playoffs, there isn’t a team that has less question marks than the Hawks. That has to count for something.

Now I’m not saying the Hawks are going to walk away with the West nor is this some opus seen through rose-colored glasses. They could very well get bounced in the first round or second round.

But it won’t be because of lack of effort or lack of heart or turning the on switch to off. It will be because something to the effect of Chris Campoli’s clear didn’t go over Burrows’ head or Mike Smith having a 45 save shutout or Nick Leddy losing his stick and then getting hit with the puck.

–When Jonathan Toews said after the game that no one was panicking and they were pretty pleased with their play over the last three games, he has to be talking about that from a defensive point of view.

Michal Rozsival excluded, the Hawks have really cleaned up their play in the defensive and neutral zone. I could be proven wrong but the games like we saw against Edmonton where they surrendered 98 shots are behind them.

Turnovers are being limited and forwards aren’t flying the zone looking for ya-ha time.

So again, we’re talking about a 2-1 or 3-2 game where a bounce here or a bounce there is the difference. Not the ideal way to go about winning but that’s hockey sometimes. So long as the Hawks are responsible in their own end with the puck, those games will start to flip back in their favor.

–One more game, peeps and then you can all properly freak out after any losses. I know you’re ready.

  • birdhead

    I am in the best post-loss freakout form I’ve been in over the last 4 years.

  • BestPredsForward

    I hope the parity-lovers enjoy all that revenue from Calgary, Winnipeg, and Ottawa in the absence of Los Angeles, San Jose, and Boston.

    • chiswede

      Maybe it’ll raise the Canadian dollar and the salary cap will go up.

  • ‘hawks58

    Hear, hear! That has been my thought the past 4+ weeks. Despite all the rumblings, this team is too battle treated and too good (despite obvious flaws at some spots) to go down without a memorable fight. So sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride (however long it may be)

  • 1985AH1985

    This team has earned the benefit of the doubt. That said, they could win the cup or lose in the 1st round. Neither would surprise me. Its all in play.

  • Bruce

    Limiting turnovers? There were 3 egregious TOs in the first period last night. That said, if you give up only two goals per game, you should be better than 0-3 as they are the last 3 games. This team does not feel like other teams. It used to be when they were down, you never felt they were out of a game. Now it is shocking when they come back. Granted, it can all change in the playoffs, but it sure doesn’t feel like it will. Yes, they have earned the benefit of the doubt.

    • Icdws

      I’m with you. Hawks games the past 5 seasons have been appointment viewing. This season is the jump the shark equivalent. There lack of scoring ability is a huge question. Putting Rozival on the ice in playoffs is receipe for disaster. Hopefully kimmo can play and q does the 5 man d thing. All that being said and my xpectations being low, with Toews Hossa saad keith seats and hammer they will compete.

      • The Hull With It

        Exactly, mediocre all season. With this core, blah blah blah… what fucking core? Sharp clearly hit the wall this season. Toews, Hoss, Keith, Seabs — nothing like past years. Saad, Versteeg, Richards — inconsistent at best. Shaw, Bickell — mostly dead weight.

        Without 88, no scoring punch.

        2009-10 playoffs vs vancouver — remember who was the hero who almost pulled us to victory? Ben Smith. Neglected the next 2 seasons. Now the worst trade in memory.

  • Lemmy

    Raise your hand if you want to see a round 1 against StL instead of Nashville. That’s what happens if the Wild get 2 points and we get none in the last game of the year.

    • CoolTalk

      Wrong. Possible, but wrong.

      • Lemmy

        Why “wrong.” It is equally as likely as a Ducks scenario.

        • CoolTalk

          You’re right bad choice of words on my part.

  • CoolTalk

    Best matchup:

    Hawks lose to Lanche
    Ducks lose to Yotes
    Wild beat Blues in OT

    Hawks get the Pacific division run and play Ducks in first round followed by Flames/Nucks winner if they get by that.

    yea, thats the ticket!

  • Brandon Murray

    Soooooooooooo lets just get to the playoffs already. I’d like the switch on offense to be turned to ‘on” now please. It takes 16 wins to hoist the Cup. I’d love to lift it again, but if we can’t I pray it isn’t that inbred team from the river bottom. FTB

  • SuperHawk27

    Playoffs!!!! All the questions that were being asked throughout the regular season will be answered with great triumph, or agonizing defeat. Hopefully the Hawks can get a mini rest in before they go off on the road to start the playoffs.

  • Harry Longwood

    Wherefore art thou, Showtime?

  • fromheretoinfirmary

    Yea I think you’re right to an extent, except if it comes down to a coin-flip, which I feel like each series this year will (should we be blessed with more than one of course), then consider me nervous as hell without kane. Say what you will about depth, and I’m by no means discounting it, but I think the hawks have come out ahead in those “coin flip” series more times than not because they have game-changers so to speak i.e. Kane, Toews, Keith. When push comes to shove, it’s those guys that come up with the big goals, the big plays, etc. Let’s hope Kaner’s back first round.

  • Sopel the catfish

    I have about the same level of interest in the last few games as the Hawks do. Previous cups have spoiled us, and while the expectations are rightfully high, I am not not ready to look for the ledge. The roster is not the same that will be suiting up for game 1 and Crow has been absolute nails. Last time Crawford played this well some guy stole his Conn Smythe. I will begin to worry once they are in an elimination game

    • Jim

      You are right, Crawford should be playing for his second Conn Smythe if they make it that far. Hopefully the guy that stole the first one will be playing also!

  • Annette Frontpresence

    I find it very difficult to believe that none of the D-men in the A can be more helpful than Roszival.