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SportsMondayTuesday: One Last Blackhawks Gasp

I tuned in to Len (Kasper) and Jim (Deshaies) at some point in the past week when they were commenting on one of the Cubs' spring training games. They had plenty to say but so much of it boiled down to this: "None of this stuff matters."

Do not draw any baseball-related conclusions based on pretend game action in Arizona. Wait until the real games start in a couple weeks. In the meantime, a caveat: "None of this stuff matters" pertains to veterans, who will make up the entire Cubs roster.

But young guys, like last year's first-round pick Nico Hoerner, can make news. And Hoerner, a shortstop who starred for Stanford, has earned a couple headlines saying he has a world of potential. (Potential that should probably be used - in another year or so - in a trade for some young starting pitching but still . . . )

I can wait until the regular season. But it isn't easy to do so both as a fan and as a sportswriter who really wants to not write about the winter sports in Chicago anymore.

So let's talk a little more about the Blackhawks before they are gone. First, they have pulled themselves back to within five points of the second wild card, currently held by the Wild. Second, they probably won't make it with a dozen games left and a couple other teams to pass in the standings.

Then again . . . in all the time the local hockey team seemed to be getting its stuff together in the past six weeks, they never played a game like the one they played Saturday. That was when they went to Dallas, took a 2-1 lead toward the end of the first period, and then played rock-solid defense the rest of the way to lock down the win. The usual over-praise of the goalie (in this case Corey Crawford) followed, but this was a team defensive effort with forwards and blue-liners contributing strong performances in front of their own net.

So the question heading into Monday night's game was if the Hawks could keep it going. Could they maintain the discipline that resulted in their best defensive performance in seemingly forever in the previous game?

The answer was a resounding yes. They blew away Arizona 7-1 - though the Coyotes who actually still have a better shot at the playoffs than the Blackhawks do. Even so, the Blackhawks combined a good team defensive performance with the explosive offense that has been so much fun in the second half of this season.

Individually, the biggest news was that the rehabilitation of young forward Brandon Perlini contininued. In his first few weeks with the Hawks after he came over from the Coyotes with Dylan Strome in the trade for Nick Schmaltz, Perlini was simply horrible.

He fit in with a Hawks team that so frequently played irresponsibly in pursuit of more goals that its defense was atrocious. But considering his status as a former first-round pick, it didn't seem as though he was close to cashing in on his potential.

So he sat, as a healthy scratch, for about a dozen games. That seemed to get his attention, and in the last few games he has played quite well on both ends of the ice. Keep it up young man!

Relatively speaking, shutting down the Stars and the Coyotes was easy compared to the Hawks' next challenge: they travel to Toronto to face the young, talented and offensively minded Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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