The Blackhawks are in the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Chicago clinched a postseason spot with a win over a Nashville team that has dominated them all year. Like the rest of the season, it wasn’t pretty. But there there isn’t a line for “pretty” in the standings.
As has been the case all year, the Hawks superstars stole the headlines while rookies did the dirty work. Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook scored goals, but Andrew Shaw had two assists and Marcus Kruger added an assist and two blocked shots in a game that saw most of the Hawks’ roster contribute.
Lost in the goals and assists in the box score, Shaw (20:21) and Kruger (20:23) were on the ice longer than Kane (19:36) and Marian Hossa (18:39) on Saturday night. And they deserved it; both have been outstanding while Jonathan Toews has been out of the lineup.
If winning the Mega Millions came with long odds, how about the Blackhawks converting on power plays in each of the first two periods on Saturday night? Especially against a Predators team that plays such tight defense, the thought of that is laughable on its face, but the Hawks made it happen as they ran out to a 4-0 lead.
Sharp, Dave Bolland, Kane and Viktor Stalberg scored in the game’s first 29 minutes. For Stalberg, it was his 20th goal of the season. He has been playing with increased confidence in the last month, and has become a fairly consistent contributor (even in games that aren’t against the Blue Jackets). Stalberg finished the month of March with three goals and five assists in 14 games.
In spite of
morons fans saying Joel Quenneville could/should be fired during the season, and in spite of some fans saying there has been a top-to-bottom organizational failure during this season, the Hawks are in the driver’s seat to be the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and ran off a 10-2-2 record in March without Jonathan Toews and, for the last four games of the month, without Duncan Keith.
Is this Blackhawks team perfect? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But consider that, in March, they beat St. Louis (twice), Detroit, Nashville, Vancouver, Ottawa and the New York Rangers without their best player on the ice.
The Hawks will compete in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth consecutive year. That hasn’t been a reality in Chicago in 15 years, but it is now.