Chicago Blackhawks clinch Central division title

hawksclinch.jpgMy guess is that Blackhawk fans were cheering about more than just a free Egg McMuffin this afternoon. Thanks to Detroit’s loss, Chicago is now officially the 2009-10 Central division champions.

The Blackhawks’ official site features some really interesting tidbits that highlight the fact that a) this is one of the best seasons the team ever produced and b) it’s been a long time since they’ve been so great.

Chicago last captured its division when it earned the Norris Division crown during the 1992-93 season, finishing with a 47-25-12 (106 points) record.

The 2009-10 season marks the first time in 38 years the Blackhawks have registered consecutive 100-point seasons, while the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs will mark the first time in 13 years Chicago will make consecutive postseason appearances.

The Blackhawks are currently one victory away from matching the franchise record set in both 1970-71 and 1990-91 and four points away from tying the club record set in both 1970-71 and 1971-72. Chicago is also two points away from increasing its regular-season point total for the sixth consecutive season.

While some are fixated on problems in net and lapses in their defensive system, it’s important to note just how dramatic the team’s turnaround has been. In just a few years the team has gone from near-dead to a league-wide sensation.

Congratulations to the Blackhawks and all their fans for a great achievement and an impressive season overall. It will be interesting to see how far they can go in this year’s playoffs.

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”

Sutter: Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

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Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.

The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.

“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”

“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”

Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.

“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”

The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…