Sunday, April 12, 2009

We've figured a few things out

1. Believe it or not, we CAN win without Patrick Sharp (although, I don't prefer it). After being out for a month during February and March, Sharpie came back to play a few games before colliding with Predators' goalie, Pekka Rinne, and slamming his knee into the goalpost. Last time Sharpie was out, the Hawks suffered. However, Khabibulin was out at the same time. So who's the real critical link? The Blackhawks haven't lost in regulation this April. I'm glad to see the Blackhawks doing well, but I would like to have him back for the playoffs (which we should).
2. We have home-ice advantage for the first round. The Blackhawks clinched the fourth spot in the West. They have more points than third place Vancouver, but since the top three spots are taken by the division leaders, the Hawks are pushed down to fourth. However, fourth is still good enough to have home-ice advantage for round one. This is important as the Blackhawks have been 25-9-7 at home this season. And why not? Chicago has supported it's team so well at home that they broke the record for season attendance. The Hawks have sold out almost all (if not all) of their home games this season. Having home-ice advantage is huge.
3. We're playing Calgary.
This is probably the best news that Chicago got. There was a tight race between Vancouver and Calgary for the Northwest Division title, and thankfully, Calgary lost that race. The Blackhawks swept Calgary this year, and almost swept Vancouver as well. The differences are these: the game we did lose to Vancouver was recent....and terrible (4-0) AND the Canucks have Roberto Luongo (possibly the best goalie in the league). Against the Flames, the Blackhawks have a more favorable matchup with Miikka Kipprusoff, who used to be really good and is now just kind of good. I also like the fact that we didn't falter against them this year.
4. We can beat the Red Wings.
Or maybe I should say, "We can beat top-tier teams." The Blackhawks finished the season with a home-and-home with Detroit. Up until this weekend, the Blackhawks were unable to beat the Red Wings this year (although they held decent leads in at least two of their previous confrontations, only to give them up and lose). Chicago would be the team coming from behind this time. They came from a 2-1 deficit to tie and then took the lead in the last minute of a 4-2 victory. Sunday's game was a showcase of Nikolai Khabibulin's talent as he deflected 37 shots, many of which came from the Red Wings dangerous power play team. Khabibulin deserved a shutout with the way he played. And you know what? He got one. The Blackhawks sent the Red Wings away with a 3-0 defeat. This is a huge pick-me-up for Chicago. This April, they proved to us that they could beat marginal teams, like Nashville and Columbus, that they lost to previously this season. But back-to-back victories over the Red Wings does so much more to boost the confidence of the Blackhawks.

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