Blackhawks secure a playoff spot and defeat Nashville 5-4 - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Blackhawks secure a playoff spot and defeat Nashville 5-4

Updated: April 01, 2012 10:24 AM CDT
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On Saturday night, the Blackhawks once again made it more exciting than it should have been. The Predators are one of the top teams in the NHL and the Hawks were able to secure a 4-0 lead in Nashville. Then the Hawks let some old bad habits slip back into their game and as a result Nashville was able to tie the score. The Predators were rolling but the Hawks won the contest on a beautiful Brent Seabrook tally at 8:19 of the third period.

Not to belabor all the possibilities, but with the victory the Hawks are guaranteed a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season. If my math is correct, the Blackhawks will not finish lower than a sixth seed. They could possibly move up to fourth place in the Western Conference and have home ice to start the playoffs. Detroit and Chicago have 97 points each but the Red Wings have played one less game. With only three games remaining the Predators have one more point than the Hawks and sit in fourth place. So it is possible the sixth place Blackhawks could finish higher.

At this point what is more important than where the Blackhawks will finish is how they are playing.

Since Jonathan Toews has been injured the club has found a more committed mindset to playing effective hockey in all three zones. That's the very good news, and is the reason this club has done so well despite dealing with many injuries. The not so good news is the Blackhawks can't seem to play with a continuous top effort throughout most games. That's why seemingly easy victories, like Saturday night, turn into nail biters. That's also why the club has yet to record a shutout on the season.

In any sport top teams are those who are most consistent. Night after night, game after game the best clubs find a way to perform at a reliable, high level. The Blackhawks can beat any team, but they aren't talented enough to win with a part time effective effort.

As a group, the Hawks have a strong will to win, to go along with a handful of players with elite talent. That in itself leads them to be consistently inconsistent, but in many games still good enough to win. The Blackhawks roster does have some holes, so no lead should be taken for granted.

It is fun watching a fast-paced team that can score goals. When the Hawks control the pace of the match, as was the case recently versus the Blues and Saturday night as well, they can find the most success. The issue which haunts this team is that they can't seem to downshift effectively.

At one point in the second period, the Hawks were in complete control. It appeared Corey Crawford could get his first shutout of the season but Nashville is too good to quit, especially on home ice. Unfortunately the Hawks kept looking for more goals instead of concentrating on puck management.

In the second period, the Hawks were caught leaning. They were looking to score more even though they had a four goal lead. That led to poor defensive coverage and turnovers which allowed Nashville to score four consecutive goals and even the score. A team void of confidence would have been reeling and probably lost, especially on the road, but the Hawks had the resolve to fight back for the win.

The playoffs could be very exciting for Hawk fans because this team has the potential of playing hockey into the spring. That statement is more likely to be true with the addition of a healthy Toews. The Hawks captain has been cleared for contact and if all goes well he could play this week.

For all to go well regarding a long playoff run, the Hawks need to fight off the urge of looking to score goals at all costs. The Blackhawks showed they can defeat Nashville on the road but it would have been even better to win the game 4-0 or 5-1. In that way some players could get a few shifts off and would conserve some energy for Sunday night's matchup versus the Minnesota Wild. Brent Seabrook played slightly over 31 minutes, and every second was needed because a four goal lead was squandered.

Minnesota is playing only for pride, they are not in the playoff hunt. Saturday night on home ice, the Wild defeated Los Angeles who is in a dog fight to secure a spot for post-season play. The Hawks are coming off an emotional big win and they will have to fight fatigue and possibly some disinterest to secure two points on home ice.

Blackhawk fans can take a deep breath now that the playoffs are a guarantee. The Hawks are close to becoming a team that could get to the Western Conference Championship. They will need performances like Saturday night from Crawford and a better understanding of game conditions.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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