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Blackhawks Mon Apr 15 2013

Hawks Win Central - West and Cup in Sight

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png In this lockout-shortened season, coach Joel Quenneville laid out a three-step goal for his team before the first game: win the Division, win the Conference, win the Cup. Along the way, his squad just so happened to go on a streak that broke franchise and NHL records, which has made this dream season one for the books.

The Hawks (32-5-4; 68 points) clinched its 15th division title in franchise history Friday after beating the Detroit Red Wings in a 3-2 shootout. For good measure, they then cleaned the rink with the St. Louis Blues yesterday afternoon, 2-0, to give them a nine-point cushion ahead of the Anaheim Ducks for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Just two more regulation wins and a tie, mixed in with a few Ducks losses, and the Hawks will have home ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs. Oh yeah, and they're doing it, for the most part, without Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa on the ice. (Hossa has been back recently and Sharp has been in and out with upper-body injuries).

So what realistically could slow down this team during a post-season run? Well, we saw captain Jonathan Toews head to the locker room after David Backes put a hit on him yesterday (Toews would eventually return). Andrew Shaw was also knocked into another time zone in the same game by Kevin Shattenkirk.

A few obstacles the Hawks will face in a few weeks will be more physical play like they faced yesterday from opposing teams and, if all goes well, the unfamiliar match-up against an Eastern Conference team in the Cup final. But let's face it, the main obstacle this team has to overcome will be itself.

That's the main ingredient in every sports headline, interview and movie, right? If an opposing team is smart enough and has done its homework, it knows which buttons to press at the right time to ultimately take the air out of its sail. Thus prompting an uncontrollable urge to fight back and act out of rage instead of taking the higher road. And in hockey, this leads to penalty minutes.

We saw yesterday from the St. Louis Blues that a little bit of rattling can create frustration with this Hawks team. One thing Quenneville will have to instill is the same patience and skill that got his team this far. Yeah, there's the "Carbomb," Mayers and Bollig to protect and serve, but retaliation can only take you so far, especially in the playoffs.

I'm not saying back down completely, but get your jabs in and simply point up at the scoreboard and keep doing what you do best: skate fast and score. That and having a second-line center who can consistently win face-off draws would be nice.

I was looking forward to this season once it got under way back in late-January. I'm looking even more forward now to this post season, as the results could prove to be historic, providing the team's sight isn't clouded with unnecessary distractions.

One out of the three goals is now complete. Close out the West, rest players who need it, while still keeping the momentum, give newly-signed and Hobey Baker Award winner Drew LeBlanc a little taste of some ice time, and buckle up for what is sure to be a fun ride to June.

 
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