Blackhawks Beat Preds Again, Clinch Playoff Berth

After struggling to pull away from the Predators for 40 minutes, a change made by Joel Quenneville provided the spark the Blackhawks needed to clinch a playoff spot.

The Hawks dominated the first two periods, putting 29 shots on Pekka Rinne while allowing only 16 to reach Ray Emery. Unfortunately, the scoreboard showed two goals for each team.

And when David Legwand scored early in the third period, many in attendance at the United Center started to wonder if another third period disaster was about to unfold.

But chasing one goal and two points for a playoff berth, the Blackhawks put their big money line together and it was explosive.

After wasting two periods skating with Marcus Kruger and Daniel Carcillo, Quenneville took the handcuffs off Patrick Kane and put him with Jonathan Toews and Andrew Brandon Saad.

Saad tied the game at three, scoring his ninth goal off a rebound in traffic in front of the net. Only 55 seconds later, Kane pursued the puck into the boards and found Toews, who was streaking into the play. Chicago’s captain buried the game-winning goal, his 19th of the season.

With less than one minute left in the game, Saad showed incredible maturity by passing on an empty net goal to get the puck to Kane, who put it home for his 20th of the season.

In less than ten minutes, Kane, Toews and Saad each picked up two points in the box score and led the Hawks to two important points in the standing.

Andrew Shaw scored a goal for the first time in eight games and added an assist later in the third period. Bryan Bickell extended his personal point streak to three games, and scored in both weekend games against Nashville; Bickell also posted three hits in the game.

The Hawks had an impressively physical game on Sunday night as well. Only four Chicago players – Marian Hossa, Viktor Stalberg, Duncan Keith and Michael Frolik – weren’t credited with at least one hit in the game.

And, once again, the Blackhawks dominated at the dot. Led by Toews, who won 11 of 16 faceoffs in the game, Chicago won 32 of 55 in the game. Michal Handzus continues to impress, winning eight of 14 in the game and Kruger won eight of 11 as well.

In three games since he was acquired from San Jose, Handzus has won 28 of 43 faceoffs (65.1 percent).

With wins on back-to-back days, Emery may now force the organization to think about which of their netminders sits on top of the depth chart as the playoffs draw near. Emery allowed three goals against 42 shots over the weekend, but made a number of key saves on Sunday to keep the Hawks in the game.

Also, with one successful penalty kill on Sunday night the Hawks extended their streak to 10 straight games without allowing a powerplay goal.

Having won four of their last five games, Chicago will play in Minnesota on Tuesday night.

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29 Responses to Blackhawks Beat Preds Again, Clinch Playoff Berth

  1. Sr. Brad says:

    Some general observations from the game…

    Pekka Rinne is an unbelievable goalie…you can tell that he expects to make every save, and when he doesn’t it seems a shock to him…with Crawford, he seems to almost expect goals to go in…

    Emery was not nearly as good tonight, and once again the Hawk goalies were outplayed by the competition…not that Emery was bad, put poor positional play cost him 2 goals.

    Man child, Brandon Saad was just that once again…while Hossa is taking his time getting back into game shape, Saad and Toews continue to mow down the opposition. Q’s confidence in Saad is astounding…as Saad breaks up the Pred’s late chance, then dishes to Kaner for the empty net goal. How many rookies in the NHL would even be on the ice in this situation to make such a play? Plus, Saad is so strong from the waist down, just like both Toews and Hossa.

    Kaner made a great power forward move late in the 3rd to set up the game winning goal…he didn’t necessarily drive anyone into the boards, but he stole the puck off the forecheck and set up Tazer beautifully…you can see that Kane isn’t close to 100% yet…he is still quite sick.

    Since Handzus arrived, Kruger has been MUCH better, and is almost unbeatable at the dot? What gives?

    The 3rd line with Handzus, Bickell and Stahlberg are insane…and I love Andrew Shaw…but the size of that line with Handzus is so impressive, they are all giants out there, and with Handzus winning all the draws, they are a terror once more on the opposition. That line should continue.

    Andrew Shaw is getting back to 100%…he could have scored a least 3 others over the last 3 games, if not for great saves against him. His tip tonight was amazing. I like his grit on the 4th line with Frolik…when Bolland or Kruger come back to this line, it will be a terror.

    The 2nd line of Kruger, Kane and Carcillo should never be repeated again…yikes Q, what were you thinking of?

    The D pairing of Hammer and Keith is starting to get better together, and that’s a big key…as Leddy/Sebs are going to be good. Oduya struggled once again against a powerful Nashville forecheck. He’s going to look like Wiley E. Coyote by the time the playoffs are done.

    If Sharp can come back healthy, the Hawks have a great chance in the post season…as Kruger (who over the 2nd half of the season is winning more than 50% of his draws) might be able to adequately centre he and Kane for the playoffs. With Toews and Handzus winning 60+% of their face-offs, a proficient Kruger at the dot, likely puts us over the top. It also puts Bolland’s substandard play down to the 4th line, where honestly, he belongs right now.

    Let’s hope Sharp plays Tuesday.

  2. EbonyRaptor says:

    I’ve been an advocate of Toews and Hossa playing together since Q first experimented with it in the 2009/10 season. I think it has worked very well this season as the 1st line has been dominant in puck possession time. However, a couple factors have changed a bit since I first started pining for Toews-Hossa – first, Saad has proven to be a pretty effective board and puck retrieval guy too, and second, Kane has gotten better at scrumming along the boards and actually coming away with the puck some times. Therefore, after seeing Saad-Toews-Kane in the game today, I’ve softened in my stance that the best line up should have Toews and Hossa together on the top line and have Kane anchor the second line. Further, I think a Sharp-Bolland-Hossa line would be, at worst, a pretty good defensive line and could be used to check the opponents best line. That line would have enough firepower to score too, so it may be similar to the Ladd-Bolland-Havlat line of 2008/09.

    I’d like to see Q try these lines before the playoffs – maybe they will work well.

    Saad-Toews-Kane
    Sharp-Bolland-Hossa
    Bickell-Handzus-Stalberg
    Shaw-Kruger-Frolik

  3. Dickie Dunn says:

    Sr. Brad,

    I agree, “Pekka Rinne is an unbelievable goalie” – I really do not see “Crawford, seems to almost expect goals to go in…”. Also agree, “The 3rd line with Handzus, Bickell and Stalberg…should continue”. (And, hopefully soon, Sharp-Kruger-Kane, Saad-Toews-Hossa, and Frolik-Shaw-Bollig/Carcillo…?)

    ER – I’m not discounting Bolland – I just wish he was the Bolland we all know (knew?) and loved…but, this season, (due to injuries?) he’s been playing at less than 50% of that guy. Unless he recovers, I don’t see him beating out anyone in the lines I proposed (hope for) above. I think Toews/Hossa/Saad and Kane/Sharp/Kruger(?) provides better *balance*, but the wings on these two (top) lines could/should be interchangeable.

  4. BigSmokeJ says:

    Didn’t get a chance to see either game this weekend, but from the comments it looks like Emery might be taking over the number 1 spot, is that the case?

  5. Carl says:

    Emery,is They #1 Goal Tender in My View, They Have a Better Chance in They Playoffs
    With Emery in Goal!

  6. Peter says:

    I too did not watch the games this weekend, but like Emery and his experience (didn’t he take a team to the Cup Finals…). I think we will know soon who the # 1 goalie will be. My guess is Crawford gets 2 or 3 starts in a row now, and if he is shaky, he is the #2.

    I like Kane’s offense on the 2nd line, but he and Toews have unbelievable chemistry. I mean it is so clear to me when they play together that they are in the upper echelon of players on the planet that I might consider moving Hossa to the 2nd Line. Would a 2nd line of Sharp, Kruger, Hossa be bad? Kruger will battle for the puck and Sharp and Hossa are obviously dangerous offensively.

    I don’t let Bolland sniff any line other than the 3rd or 4th right now and if Handzus continues to center a solid line…Bolland should be on the 4th.

  7. RyanDale says:

    Nashville is struggling, but yet they can really test you. We did a good job of being patient against them, which is most important. 3Ws against is no small feat in a weeks time vs. Rinne. We’ve been excellent lately being discipline and staying out of the box in general. Numbers at the dot are outstanding since Zus came on board up and down the line.

    IF the health questions take care of themselves in time, and we remain healthy, the main topic moving towards the playoffs might be the dreaded goalie situation. We all knew what we had in the beginning, and both took off like rockets to begin the season. In early April it’s looking like we have a no.1 job to be won. That and the PP is a concern to me as well.

    Ending on a good note, we are still a damn good team on the road . Maybe that is the one thing that will be true from beginning to end this season. Sure looking like that .

  8. wall says:

    ER and Brad- Cbomb and Kruger played well w/ Kane… they simply are not finnishers… and therefore make Kane rather useless…

    I don’t think Hossa’s poor play is about “getting his legs back”… to me it is just my early season observation on Saad… Hossa is “Rushing” plays and passes (Just like Saad did- and had few points/assists in first 18 games- Saad’s patience/timing has improved dramatically- and so has production)- IMO- Hoss is “rushing/panicking” mostly in open ice… to avoid big hits/contact (That usually isn’t there)- in the O-zone he is still holding the puck (Because he knows those hits won’t be as fast/hard)…

    The question on Hoss- is it to nurse his injury??? Or is it a mental state? (which is something to be concerned with.

    Great move by Q to see that Hoss is playing “Timidly”…
    Going forward Kruger can’t play/finnish with Kane… so swap Kane/Hoss or Center Sharp/Bolly w/ Kane… Or even try Zus w/ Hoss on 2nd line…

  9. JS says:

    How is Handzus always near the puck? Seriously it’s like he teleports to where the puck is going to be. Bickell seems re-engergized since 26 came over. That line is scary.

    How happy must Kane have been to finally be playing with people that don’t suck? That steal and pass to Toews was ridiculous. With Sharp saying he should be back Tuesday I’m wondering what the lines will look like.

    Saad has to be the choice for Calder, right? Ridiculous. Keep Kane on a line with this guy and he’ll score 30+ a season.

    Emery is playing better right now. Watching Emery go post to post is downright painful. Crawford really needs to get back to where he was at the start of the season because he definitely gives them the best chance to win the Cup… if he isn’t broken mentally.

    PLEASE put Leddy and Kane on the first powerplay… please.

  10. Sr. Brad says:

    Great observations everyone…thanks Wall for the comments on Hoss…I said here about 2 weeks ago that Kane should be elevated to the Toews/Saad line (for a myriad of reasons both offensively and defensively), and Hoss should go to the 2nd line…Hoss can compensate defensively for a lack of faceoff wins by stealing the puck, which no one does better (including Toews). A line of Sharp/Hossa and whomever at centre WON’T HURT US in the playoffs…a line of say Sharp/Kane and say Bolland could hurt us defensively.

    By the time the season ends, Saad should be the ROTY…

    JS great observation on Handzus…and yes, that 3rd line is scary once again…the size and speed in the offensive zone caused huge fits for Nashville…and a 4th line of say Shaw/Frolik and Bolland, or Kruger, or even Carcillo would be the best in the league and capable of playing 12 minutes a night.

    I just hope Q sees that Bolland can’t be the 2nd line centre anymore…Kruger can, without hurting us, and I think Handzus would do a good job as well. That, and goaltending is the key moving forward…CC hasn’t been consistent for over a month…back to the one good one, one bay one motif…

  11. wall says:

    Brad, I love how hard 16 works, and he is responsible D wise… but he can’t finish a Kane or Hoss pass… best options for me 36/26/10 centering Hoss on 2nd line, in that order. 26 has shown to be pretty smart so far…

    I see the same problem w/ 10-36-88… can’t escape own zone/ and 36 doesn’t win enough FO’s…

    Lastly, anyone see Rusty skate for Hogs yet??? If he can skate- might be a surprise for Playoff roster… IMO-Another Big/Strong Czech who can dominate 4th liners-

    Lastly- “SOFT GOAL” Corey— has to be better!!!!

  12. Sr. Brad says:

    I watched Olescz play twice last week in Rockford…he has adequate speed…not overly fast, but he is quick for a bigger player…so I don’t see speed as a problem in the NHL. The biggest thing for Olescz is not to be a bystander…when he gets involved in the game, he is effective…when he hids on his wing, he is a waste…

    CC needs to be stronger mentally.

  13. Sean says:

    I think Emery would be the #1 goalie but he can’t start every game because of his hips. Most people have trouble walking day to day, nonetheless play hockey.

  14. JS says:

    I’m sure Bowman would snicker if Olescz came and made an impact in the playoffs. With how well Morin is playing I really wouldn’t mind seeing him in the Hawks sweater a few more times.

    To be fair to Corey, he gets a bad rap because of the playoffs last year. When the defense doesn’t suck eggs in front of him, he’s normally a really solid goaltender. The Preds game on Monday was pretty silly, but for the most part when he lets in a goal, people scream that it was soft and he should have saved it. However, when the Hawks score on a very similar play, it’s never about how soft the goal was, it’s about how great of a shot it was by X! So yeah, he’s a little soft mentally, but he gets a bad rap. I’d like to see him get his confidence rolling and then be the Crawford we know he can be come playoff time.

    And remember a few weeks ago when the fourth line had Carcillo and Kruger on it? Kane was basically playing as a fourth liner the past few games. Give him someone that can finish! I definitely see Kruger as more of a set-up guy than a finisher which is why he probably wouldn’t be too bad next to Hossa and Sharp. And good point Brad, what’s with Kruger’s faceoffs recently? Did Handzus tell him what he was doing wrong?

    I don’t hate Handzus screening on the PP, but I hate the way the Hawks always turn to face the goalie (searching for a rebound) as the shot is coming. When you have guys like Leddy firing them from the point, odds are if the goalie doesn’t see it, it’s going to go in the net. Just stand your ground!

  15. Mike says:

    Saad / Toews / Kane (18-19 minutes)
    Sharp / Kruger / Hossa (17-18)
    Bickell / Handzus / Stalberg (14)
    Shaw / Bolland / Carcillo (10)

    Speed and tenacity on all 4 lines. Carcillo needs to (and has been) stay out of the box. Also I think these lines would be easier to shuffle if an injury occurs.

    I also like these recent D pairings
    Kieth / Hammer (23 minutes)
    Seabs / Leddy (23)
    Oduya / Rosival (14)

    Hawks run and gun offense can leave them vulnerable especially the last 4 minutes of the period. And if the Hawks have good puck possesion, they will take a physical beating adding to their late period fatigue. I think Q has the team to go a long way BUT he must play with a lead to keep the lines rolling. If Toews, Kane, Hossa and Sharp have to play 20 -22 minutes, I think that hurts us badly.

    I know the Hawks have had their way with the Wings this year but I am hoping they do not meet in the first round.

  16. Sr. Brad says:

    Mike, great points, great lineup…you are just missing Frolik…this is the great thing when everyone is back, Carcillo, Bollig and Mayers shouldn’t be dressing.

  17. BigSmokeJ says:

    Mike great points and I really like that lineup. Depending on who is doing better you can switch between Frolik and Carcillo. Putting him between Sharp and Hossa makes sense, I hope he can handle the grind of the playoffs.

  18. RyanDale says:

    Given the current roster, a lineup minus 13,22,52 and 17 would be as good as it gets moving forward…sooner the better. I thought last Sundays game vs Det might be a jump start for 36. Last gasp was more like it. What he can offer up when he returns will go a long way in how we fair. Not saying we can’t win without him..but we all know what a good 36 can do.

    Facing Wings first would not bother me. Heck, it might give Crawford some early round confidence/momentum given his success vs them to date. He might carry it forward just long enough to get the 16 Ws

  19. JS says:

    The Wings play the exact style that the Hawks should dominate. Sounds like a perfect first round match up!

    Tab- What do you think about doing a pre-game write up to kind of point out what we should look out for during the game? For some of us losers that always watch the game with a laptop handy, it would also give us the ability to react to the game as things are happening.

  20. Mike says:

    Sr Brad you are exactly right. Frolik should replace Carcillo….my mistake.

    JS I worry about the Wings because they are an experienced well coached team. Bertuzzi always gets under the Hawks skin and will be back soon. Helm may be back for the playoffs. Never underestimate the Wings.

  21. wall says:

    St. Louis would be a tougher 1st round match-up…

    Give me the Wings.

  22. CrunchyWyte says:

    Besides the obvious (the Frolik line playing great, the comeback, the great back checking) All I could think about after that game was how much I’m digging the #25 – #26 – #29 line. Size, speed, skill. LOVING IT. Hope they stay together.

  23. IceHogst says:

    Great lines mike, I think they’re perfect.

    Condolences to Frolik, who has done his job, but that shaw / bolland / Carcillo line could be deliciously annoying. Bolland’s greatest performance was getting in the sedins’ heads and taking them out of a playoff series. They could poke, stab, and in general disrupt any line the Ducks/Kings will bring, and bring it they will. Drop bollig in for added hostility if needed. After going to the UC and watch the Blues stab and poke Tazer away from the puck all friggin’ night it’s a tactic that has to be considered.

    The chemistry for each of the other 3 lines is equally great. They each shout a personality. Way to go Mike!

  24. Sr. Brad says:

    Crunchy…I agree with that new 3rd line…they were insane to watch…all 3 are giants, they all move well…they go right to the net, they win puck battles…they are going to give opposing teams nightmares.

    IH…gotta have Frolik…Fro has been a dominant player this season…and has only 3 goals.

  25. IceHogst says:

    SrB, still like Mike’s 4th line. Those 3 together bring a totally raw element the hawks lack this year.

  26. Tab Bamford says:

    I would like to see Morin in Carcillo’s slot on Mike’s fourth line. Other than that, good stuff

  27. Mike says:

    Thanks
    That 12th Forward spot, Carcillo, Frolik, Morin, Hayes, even Ben Smith (what happened to him?). As long as they can average 9-10 minutes a game, I think The Hawks can hang with anyone in a 7 game series.

  28. IceHogst says:

    Benny has been hurt off and on all year, and is now. He must feel helpless as guys pass him by while he sits. Brutal.

  29. McKay says:

    Is Q going to name a #1 goalie or will they continue to rotate every couple games like they have been? I think they should keep rotating. The defining trait in 2013 is that everyone on the roster plays and contributes. Keep going with that until a wheel falls off.

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