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"As long as they aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks continue to believe their season is still alive," NHL.com reports.
"It might be getting close to the life-support stage if they don't hit a hot streak soon, but the defending Stanley Cup champions are nothing if not resilient this season. Yes, the Blackhawks are locked in a battle with a handful of teams for one of the final spots in the Western Conference's Top 8 position.
"Yes, they are still struggling with consistency - which has been a season-long tussle to this point. The bright side is that with those gut-wrenching valleys come hope-inspiring peaks - which is exactly what they earned on Sunday afternoon in front of 22,195 at the United Center.
"After outlasting the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in a nationally-televised game decided by a shootout, the Hawks are still clinging to hope like it's the last piece of driftwood for miles around."
That about sums it up. The banged-up Penguins were ripe for the taking but it was all the Blackhawks could do to muster a relatively lucky win.
Penguin Pascal Dupuis got the shootout festivities going by clanging the puck off the post. Hawks goalie Corey Crawford kept his team in it moving forward, and Patrick Kane took time off from bar-hopping to show up as the Hawks third shooter, using some seriously slick stick-handling to induce Pen goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to butterfly too soon on one side of the net and then made one last move back to his forehand and deposited the puck in the almost empty net.
Crawford then delivered one last stellar save after refusing to commit as Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy slowed way down on his way toward the net. The Hawks have a little more life, but not quite the magic they need to reassert themselves as real playoff contenders heading into the final stretch of the regular season.
Fattening Up Albert
Now that the Cardinals have seemingly bypassed their chance to re-sign Albert Pujols, the question in these parts turns to whether the Cubs have an interest in bringing him to the North Side next season.
Make no mistake - it would be the greatest coup in Cub history.
It almost certainly won't happen, but today we dare dream that the Cubs not only sign one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, but sign him away from their most hated rival.
And why wouldn't they?
Even if Carlos Pena hits 30 home runs and drives in 90 runs this season in his one-year (contract) audition for the first base job on the North Side, his career batting average (.241) is almost exactly 100 points lower than Pujols'.
And sure, batting average isn't as meaningful as a lot of other hitting stats, but if that doesn't convince you, consider that Pujols ranks fourth all-time in slugging percentage and on-base-plus-slugging.
If Pena can't find a way to get on base more than he has, his power numbers simply aren't worth more than a small fraction of Pujols' overall value.
Next off-season, someone (the Anaheim Angels maybe? Where Pujols could transition to designated hitter at some point?) will almost certainly offer Pujols somewhere in the range of $26 to $28 million a year over six or seven or even more years.
Because we all know the Cubs could still make money - in fact would have no problem doing so - while paying Pujols that sort of money. Hell, they could easily go to $30 million a year.
Like I said, it's almost certainly not going to happen. But now is the time for a fan to dream.
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