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Game of the Week: Blackhawks lose, must depend on a Stars’ loss for playoff berth

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On their final game of the 2010-11 season, the Chicago Blackhawks only needed one point to clinch a playoff berth. Unfortunately, that one point had to come against the Detroit Red Wings, a requirement the Hawks could not meet in a 4-3 loss.

Now the defending Stanley Cup champions must await the results of a Dallas Stars-Minnesota Wild game to find out if they’ll even make the playoffs. The situation is simple: if the Stars win in regulation or overtime, they’re in; if the Stars lose or require a shootout, the Blackhawks will be the West’s eighth seed.

Detroit 4, Chicago 3

Technically speaking, the Red Wings didn’t have anything to play for this afternoon. Detroit’s place as the third seed was already cemented thanks to a San Jose Sharks win on Saturday. Still, Detroit had been stumbling lately and clearly wanted to build momentum going into the playoffs, even if their team is far from 100 percent.

After building a one-goal lead going into the second intermission, Drew Miller scored into an almost abandoned Blackhawks net to make it 3-1 about two minutes into the final frame. Brent Seabrook sent a booming shot by Jimmy Howard to give Chicago life at 3-2, but then Todd Bertuzzi delivered a big hit and a beautiful assist on Danny Cleary’s goal to build Detroit’s lead back to 4-2.

Things seemed dire until Duncan Keith exhibited great hands in front of the Red Wings net to bring the game to 4-3 midway through the third.

Keith got them back in the game and had an excellent opportunity in the dying seconds of the game, as he found himself with the puck in front of Detroit’s net once again. Unfortunately, this time he didn’t get a lucky bounce, as the puck rolled too much for him to get a decent shot on goal.

If the Stars win and boot the Blackhawks out of the playoffs, that moment might be tinged with regret, even if Keith made a heads-up play to get in front of the net to begin with. Sometimes that is just how sports work, though; an understandable missed opportunity can turn to a historic disappointment just like that.

Howard will finish the season with 37 wins, making 33 out of 36 saves. Lazy sportswriters might blame Chicago’s goaltending if they miss the playoffs, but Corey Crawford has been a revelation, winning 33 games this season. He’ll regret allowing four goals this afternoon, but overall, Crawford has been a find after Marty Turco flopped in net.

Naturally, we’ll keep you updated regarding tonight’s big Stars-Wild game, as we go from a Blackhawks game witnessed by more people than usual in Dallas to a Stars game that will be witnessed by an atypical amount of Chicago residents.

Will the Stars end up being more like the New York Rangers or Carolina Hurricanes when it’s all said and done? It should be fascinating to find out.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.