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Makes No Difference Who You Are: Blackhawks @ Stars Preview

April 6, 2010

Game Time: 7:30 PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN / WGN (720-AM)
What Used to be Minnesota’s Team: Defending Big D

Stat Pack:

Blackhawks (2nd)
Stars (12th)
5-4-1 5-4-1
Record on the Road: 21-14-4 at Home: 22-10-7
PP% 18.2% (16th) 18.7% (11th)
PK 84.8% (5th) 77.4% (27th)

This is a pretty tough game to write a preview for, and while I don’t pretend to speak for the team, I can imagine how this could be a tough game to prepare for as well. The Blackhawks are trying to get 1st seed in the West, while the Stars, already eliminated from the playoff race, are now in experimentation mode. They’ll be starting goalie Matt Climie, recalled from their minor league affiliate the Texas Stars, tonight. It’s the first of a back-to-back game for the Hawks, who will be facing the much-loathed Blues (whose playoff hopes are still inexplicably alive) on Wednesday, where the Blues have little margin for error: A regulation loss to the Hawks will eliminated them from the playoffs, and oh, how glorious would that be?

But that’s my point. Even I’m looking forward to the Blues game, but the Stars are still up ahead and for some reason, even though on paper the Stars should be an easily beatable team, they’re still the same team that has given us fits all year, so it’s very likely that the Hawks could stumble out of the gate tonight. The Stars will take advantage, of course, finding holes and scoring quickly as they have been able to before. It doesn’t matter that the Hawks are second in the conference and the Stars are golfing come April 14–tonight is still anybody’s game.

This time around, though, we’ll have Niemi in net. I’m still wondering when the next Huet sighting would occur, if it will at all, but Huet’s never had good luck with the Stars to begin with so it should be interesting to see how Niemi plays in these back to back games as his work load increases down the stretch.

At this point in time, though, the Hawks should really try to avoid falling prey to trap games and just start honing their game and fine-tuning everything they need to. Maybe it’ll be a little hard when there’s little more to play for–playoffs have been clinched, the division’s ours, so what else is there? Sure, there’s grabbing 1st seed from the Sharks and getting the first 50-win season in Blackhawks history, but they both fall under the “would be nice to have”, “icing on the cake” categories. I worry about being greedy but hey, they have to finish the season strong, right?

Anyway, this is what we know: The lines have held up so far. I don’t believe we’ll see Burish for quite a bit, given how the fourth line has been playing recently, and we’ve seen flashes of what Kane’s line can do last Sunday as well. The third line just needs to return to mid-season form and the first line is going to start finishing more chances eventually. Even the D, despite missing two key players, have settled into decent pairs.

So here’s a wish list of what I’d like to see in tonight’s tilt:

  1. A power play goal. Wow, way to start with the big one, right? Granted, we haven’t had many chances to see what the power play looks like (Thanks, Devorski!) but some of what we’ve seen lately has been pretty promising. The Hawks seem to be able to generate better chances, though they just haven’t gotten anything in. An 18.2% conversion rate is just too anemic and won’t cut it in the playoffs.
  2. Tighter defense. It’s hard when the guy who helped your transition game is out until maybe the second round of playoffs (Thanks, AO GR8!) but we’ve seen a better team effort lately when it comes to clearing the pucks out of the zone. More of that is always good, of course, but it would also be nice if men stayed covered and everyone remembered to stay in good position.
  3. Fewer rebounds. Niemi has been impressive, I’ll give him that, but sometimes his rebound control gives me little heart attacks. This isn’t a criticism of his play, mind–he’s made amazing pointblank saves on breakaways plenty of times–but if he does wish to round out his game some more, then this is the next step. The teams we’ve gone up against have had trouble capitalizing on some of his juiciest rebounds, but against tougher competition there is no doubt in my mind that those chances were ripe for converting into goals. We need to stop that from happening more often.

Let’s keep it a fairly manageable list, shall we? Just three for now, and then we’ll go from there.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2010 12:22 PM

    A Power Play goal or two tonight won’t signal that the team is fully back on track in that department, but not getting one (assuming we get a few PP chances) will really worry me. The teams we’ll see in the playoffs will be much tighter than the Stars on the PK. So it’d be nice if they could figure out the whole scoring thing tonight.

  2. April 6, 2010 12:35 PM

    Oh and in making the writers here look like complete jackasses, Burish is back in the lineup thanks to Brouwer being scratched due to “personal reasons.”

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