The Blackhawks have locked up 1st overall in the Western Conference. They have 4 games left to maintain their lead over the Penguins for tops in the league. The quest for the Presidents’ Trophy shouldn’t affect Coach Q’s decisions leading into the playoffs. It appears the Patrick Sharp return was rushed, which then found him quickly back on the shelf with discomfort to the same ailing shoulder that plagued him earlier in the season.
So do you rest your top minute munchers and even look to give a couple of them a day off? I say yes. It’s a short season and chemistry between line combinations hasn’t enjoyed this much consistency and success for a couple of years. Quenneville has a solid idea how his lineup will look come Game #1 in Round #1.
It will be interesting to see if recent signee Drew LeBlanc will see the ice in the remaining games as he’s not eligible for the post season. Nothing would appease Stan Bowman more than his highly touted and persistently pursued new prize prospect out there looking like he belongs.
It was nice to see Jamal Mayers out there last game and super swell to see Carter Hutton being able to live the life of a pro for a few games. Mayers is likely not too see any playoff time and will probably retire at the end of the season. Carter Hutton, a lifer in the AHL will likely never land a gig in the NHL ever. Still, with the Hawks in cruise control, it seems like Q will have a couple players rest up with continued spot duty of potentially LeBlanc, Mayers, Carcillo and Bollig. I wouldn’t be opposed to see Handzus, Hossa and Bolland have a “maintenance” game as they will be needed to be zoned in mentally but more importantly physically, for the playoff grind.
However all bets are off come playoff time, everyone’s feelings are put on the back-burner. The Hawks are in the nice position of making some tough depth decisions come playoff time. Depth wins a 7 game series the majority of the time with the exception of a rare outstanding individual (almost always between the pipes) performance.
History shows us that Quenneville will do anything to win, which is what makes John Jaeckel’s article today even more intriguing. JJ believes that Emery should be the man moving into the playoffs. It appears that Emery’s recent absence is due to minor nagging in his hip that needs daily attention. I am an Emery fan and can see him possibly taking over the lead role, as the team tends to play better in front of him. However I believe Q will start with Crawford giving him a leash as short as Pavel Vorobiev’s career. If Crow falters at all, Emery will enter and look to hold the fort down.
Directly in front of the Hawks goaltenders are the restructured pairings that have been playing well of late. However, it’s been apparent that Johnny Oduya’s confidence has been rattled. After such a great start, he has found himself in a downward spiral in his own end. If his poor decision-making continues, would anyone be surprised by a gritty 3rd pairing of Brookbank and Rozsival?
You have to have thick skin and put the team’s best interest before your own personal agenda. This team is too talented and too deep to lose in the 1st round this year. So despite what you think is the right or wrong, it will be up to Quenneville and his trusted assistants to make these decisions and they don’t care at all what you think. No hard feelings though.
~ The Rockford IceHogs await their playoff fate today as they are currently tied with the Milwaukee Admirals for 8th in the Western Conference. The Peoria Rivermen have to defeat the Admirals in regulation in order for the IceHogs to see life in the post season. They had a remarkable comeback win last night against the Texas Stars. After falling behind 3-0 they followed up with 5 unanswered goals.
~ Ben Smith finished the regular season with 11 points in 4 games, 8 of those for goals! He is on a one-way deal next year with the Blackhawks for a very modest $562,500 annual salary. I can see him fitting in up and down the lineup but more comfortably in a bottom 6 role. The only thing with him is staying healthy, as he’s had extensive injury history the last couple of years.
~ The writing appears to be on the wall for Brandon Pirri. Unless former Hawks Jeff Taffe has a 5 point game today, Pirri will be the reigning AHL scoring champ. His efforts are not impressing the Hawks brass unfortunately though as he’s yet to see significant time with the big club. Furthermore, the LeBlanc signing must be a deterring factor as he finds himself in a crowded centre position within the organization. If they aren’t going to give this kid a shot, I say trade him.
Ty Cam out!
Filed Under: Chicago Blackhawks
About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work for the Score Television Network so I couldn't get away from sports if I tried. These opinions are one of my own and not of Score Media Inc. - don't get it twisted.