Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Smash & Dash: On The Forecheck
With the Hawks’ win at the Tire Fire yesterday, they now stand on the precipice of being the first team in the league to officially clinch a playoff berth. The 9th place Coyotes currently sit at 40 points with 10 games left to play, which would max them out at 60 points. However, if the Coyotes were to win out in regulation and were the Hawks to lose out in regulation, they’d be tied but the Yotes would have more regulation and overtime wins. However, all of that is rendered immaterial today with a single point, and the Hawks will have officially gained entrance to the post season party, despite standing outside and waiting for it to open since mid-February.
Standing in their way for the third time this week are the Nashville Predators, who are desperately clinging to life in the Western Conference playoff picture. Yesterday’s blanking on home ice (their second this year courtesy of the Hawks) reduced their already meager hopes to a paltry 3.1% chance of making it to the playoffs. The only reason the game was that close was once again due to the Herculean efforts of Pekke Rinne in net, and with things as desperate as they are for the Preds (losing brings those odds to 1.6%), it would stand to reason that they’d have him go once again this evening.
Aside from Rinne, there’s not much more to be said about the Predators that hasn’t already been covered this week. Their offense has given them next to nothing all year in part due to injuries and defections, and their usually potent power play hasn’t been able to bail out what was always a tenuous hold on defensive competence in front of Rinne. With Paul Gaustad out yesterday the Preds suffered greatly at the dot, Losing 29 of 49 draws. Giving the Hawks the puck is not a recipe for success even with a comparable offense. Doing so with this lot is just asking for it. As usual, Patric Hornqvist will need to be accounted for in front of the net, and Shea Weber’s bazooka is always a threat, but aside from that, the Preds just don’t have the finish they used to even if they’ve still got the will.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, it would be a shock to see anyone other than Corey Crawford in the cage this evening, even in spite of Ray Emery’s shutout yesterday and glittering stat line for the entire year. Emery has performed better than anyone could have possibly hoped for this season, but his hips simply cannot be trusted against teams that will make him move over the course of a seven game series. Yes, Crow has allowed some serious turds in his past couple games, but it hasn’t been like he’s allowed a couple of 8-spots back to back. If this team is going to go places this spring, it will need to be on Crawford’s back, and he’ll need to get right in a hurry.
At press time, there’s still no word on whether Sharp or Bolland will rejoin the lineup tonight, but the guess here is that they’ll still be held out tonight given the opponent. And with everyone just absolutely clamoring for seeing more of Dan Carcillo flanking Patrick Kane on the opposite side of the ice, who can really blame the coaching staff?
Obviously the absences of players like Sharp and Bolland, and previously Marian Hossa, have had a tremendous effect on the potency of the power play, though actually having players move when on the advantage would certainly help perk things up a bit.
The Hawks don’t NEED the points as badly as the Preds do tonight, so look for an early push from them to try to take the UC crowd out of it, at which point King Koopa will toss turtle shells into the neutral zone just hoping to hang on for dear life as the Hawks attack. Scoring first will make matters that much more difficult for a Preds outfit not fully equipped to come back, even if Corey Crawford desperately wants to let them do so. Let’s go Hawks.