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Given the slightly underwhelming Super Bowl (who knew punting prop bets would be the most exciting plays?), today is clearly a great day to talk about the Blackhawks.
And the squad is on a winning streak! But there is a problem. It isn't enough for the Hawks to win, they need to win in regulation, at least when they play teams in their conference. Oh, and the smart play at this point might be a tank. More about that later.
It was great the squad found a way to knock off the Minnesota Wild 4-3 over the weekend for their fourth straight triumph. Less great that they couldn't hold on to a lead in the third period that not only would have given them two points in the standings but also would have held their foes scoreless.
Then again, once the lead was lost and the game went to the extra period, of course good on defenseman Erik Gustafsson for scoring and preventing what would have been a heartbreaking loss.
With their victory, the Hawks pushed their point total up to 49 and continued to pull away from the worst team in the West. The Los Angeles Kings are now mired at the bottom with 44 points. Everyone else is still ahead of them with about 30 games left to play.
Even if they win another five in a row, the Hawks (20-24-9) won't move into the top three in their division (and earn an automatic playoff spot). The Dallas Stars are currently third in the Central with 58 points. And the Stars will, of course, play five or so games of their own during the coming stretch of sked. And they have a game-in-hand. Whew.
The Hawks have a shot at the wild cards (the two teams with the most points in the conference who don't finish in the top three in their division), but it is a long shot. And giving the now 56-point Wild - who are fourth in the Central and would be the first wild card if the season had ended Sunday - the point for an overtime loss was obviously not ideal.
If the season had ended Sunday, the second wild card would have been the Vancouver Canucks (54). No one else in the Western Conference has more than 52 points but five teams have 51 or 52.
The Hawks finish up a three-game road trip Tuesday night in Edmonton (51 points in the West). Game time is 8 p.m. Central. Then they return to action versus the aforementioned Canucks on Thursday at home at 7:30 p.m.
The Kings are last in the Western Conference standings but second in the race for the best odds in the lottery for the first pick in the NHL draft, behind the Ottawa Senators, who have 43 points so far. Sadly enough for the Sens, the Avalanche possess their pick.
A Blackhawk tank is unlikely - and getting unlikelier. For one thing, you can't tank if you can't trade your veterans. And the Hawks will struggle to make deals for several reasons, including A) former star defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith have slipped the past few seasons and have unattractive long-term contracts, i.e. no one is clamoring to get them, and B) they both have full no-trade clauses until at least the 2021-22 season and have shown no willingness to waive them. Earlier last weekend there was a fresh report that the Hawks had asked Seabrook if he would waive his no-trade and Seabrook said no.
The fact is that Keith and Seabrook backstopped three Cups and they deserve those contracts and deserve to have a say over where they play.
The Hawks could, of course, trade Patrick Kane, but good chance attendance plummets if they go that route. It is hard to believe they would send away Captain Toews. And mixed into all of this are questions about general manager Stan Bowman's ability to oversee a rebuild. The four pillars of Blackhawk greatness the past decade were drafted by previous GM Dale Tallon, after all. And Tallon signed the free agent, Marian Hossa, who put the Hawks over the top and who the team still hasn't recovered from losing after he retired suddenly due to a skin disease before last season.
There is plenty that ails this franchise but nothing that another half-dozen more victories in a row won't cure.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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