Saturday, March 14, 2009

Down The Stretch They Come....Concerned??

Maybe you haven't noticed but Chicago is going to have at least one representative in postseason play this year. Besides the expectations that the Cubs season officially begins in October and the White Sox may get in along with how "close" the Bears are as the Bulls....ah never mind.

The Chicago Blackhawks (barring a total collapse) are headed to their first NHL postseason since the 2001-2002 season when an Eric Daze and Alex Zhamnov were committed to the indian. The Blackhawks are currently slotted in the 4th seed in the West behind Detroit, San Jose and Calgary and "FIGHTING" to keep home ice advantage for the first round of playoff play.

That's right....I used the word "FIGHTING." After going through a stretch of 13 out of 17 games on the road where the young Hawks came out of it winning 10 of those games, the Hawks have struggled lately at the place they call home going 3-3 in their last 6 home games including losing 3 of their last 4 overall. The Hawks have been "FIGHTING" with the injury bug lately as well with players like Patick Sharp and Nikolai Khabibulin going down with injuries keeping each of them out of the lineup for some time now.

Now with the struggles at home as of late, the injuries have taken their toll with this Hawks team and it has to make one it time for Blackhawks fans to worry about that 4th seed in the west? I think so.

The Hawks have 16 games remaining on their schedule with 10 of those at the UC. That's a good thing to have the fight come to your backyard but here are a couple of problems that the Hawks may face in their sprint to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

#1 - Games Against The Central
The one blemish on the Hawks record this season is their record against their own division (4-7-5). It's the only division in the west that they have a losing record against and like any other sport....down the stretch of the season, who do you play? YOUR DIVISION!! The Hawks have 8 games (4 Home 4 road) left against the Central including 2 against the hated Red Wings who the Hawks haven't beaten yet this season.

#2 - Those Damn Canucks/Blue Jackets

These are the two teams right behind the Hawks for that all important 4th seed in the West and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Those damn Canucks are only 4 points (2 wins) behind the Hawks with the Blue Jackets only 5 points behind (2 wins and an overtime loss) as well. The Hawks have 1 game remaining against Vancouver and 3 games remaining against Columbus. The Canucks have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL since the end of January with a record of 13-3-1 and have one of the hottest goaltenders (Roberto Luongo) in the NHL. With the mid season acquisition of Mats Sundin and if Luongo stays as hot as he has been the last month and a half....The Canucks could indeed leap frog the Hawks.

The only concern about the Blue Jackets for Hawks fans, besides being in their same division, should be that they have 3 more games against them. The Hawks do have a winning record against Columbus so far this season (2-1) but if Columbus finds a way to pull out games like they did last night at the UC they could be a problem being only 5 points back.

#3 - Youth And Inexperience

This is probably the biggest test for the Hawks down the stretch. Let's face it...this is a young hockey team playing on the west side of town. In fact they're the youngest in the NHL. Both of their superstars (Toews/Kane) aren't even old enough to have a sip of a cocktail legally yet. 6 of the 21 players on this roster have playoff experience and only 2 players (excluding Sam Phalsson) have won the Stanley Cup (Khabibulin{Tampa Bay}/Ladd{Carolina}). The youth and inexperience of this team could be a big factor in how this team performs down the stretch. Most of these players have never felt the pressure of a must win/pressure situation before and it'll be interesting to see how they come through. There are some things that should help them deal with that pressure however. One being you have a head coach who has plenty of playoff experience with multiple organizations, and another being you have a goal tender that has won a cup which is experience that you'll definately need for the stretch run.

I'm not saying the Hawks are gonna totally fall apart for the remaining 16 games and they'll miss the playoffs. However, it seems to me that most Hawks fans and the media just figure this team is going to the playoffs anyway and don't need to worry about the remainder of the season. What does seeding matter anyway?? Huh?

If the Hawks don't get that 4th seed and the home ice advantage that goes with it.....they'll do NOTHING in the playoffs. Fans and media will then lump this team in with the likes of the team on the north side. Great regular season but can't get it done in the playoffs.

Blackhawks fans be forewarned....there could be a disappointing end to this magical season. Don't just be happy with playoff hockey. Get greedy and let's get that 4th seed locked up and do some damage chasing down Lord Stanley's Cup!

Committed To The Indian Since 1981

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