Tag: Playoff picture

Duncan Keith

Frustrations boil over for Duncan Keith and the 11th place Chicago Blackhawks

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If you ask me, the Chicago Blackhawks front office made a clear decision heading into the 2009-10 season that reverberates today and may continue to do so for some time. Rather than giving themselves future breathing room, the team decided to bring in Marian Hossa and (briefly) retain Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker, a gamble that absolutely paid off in the short term with a Stanley Cup victory.

Of course, you probably know what happened last summer. Barker was already traded during the 09-10 season while the Blackhawks were forced to part with valuable commodities such as Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Antti Niemi.

The Blackhawks won their Cup thanks to two big picture reasons: 1) the high-end players who remain on their roster and 2) the staggering depth that no other NHL team could match.

Removing reason number two seemingly took away the Blackhawks’ ability to overwhelm opponents and store easy wins over the cold winter. They now find themselves in a scary place (11th in the West, to be exact) and face the disturbing reality that even their still-potent power play is beginning to falter. Jesse Rogers captured the frustrations of Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith.

“[Expletive] the power play,” Keith said after the game. “Nobody goes to the net to score goals. That’s why we don’t win.”

Keith played on both power-play units Monday, as Joel Quenneville changed personnel when the poor attempts piled up. But given the chance again to comment on their man-advantage play, Keith went back to even-strength.

“The other team had power plays, too,” he said. “They didn’t score. They got it 5-on-5. If we start relying on 5-on-5, we might win, instead of relying on the power play and blaming the power play or the penalty kill. We start doing better 5-on-5, we’ll win hockey games then.”

Quenneville didn’t like just about anything the Hawks did in the game and certainly didn’t disagree with his defenseman’s assessment.

Of course, the team’s need to get someone in front of the net probably makes the loss of a crease clogging and goalie-maddening presence like Byfuglien stand out that much more. It’s unfair to assume that Byfuglien would achieve the same results in Chicago as he is producing in Atlanta – after all, he is given a longer leash with the Thrashers since they possess far less options than the Hawks – but it’s tough to dispute the notion that his absence is glaring.

The Hawks most find improvement from within considering the fact that they only possess about $354K of cap space (according to CapGeek.com), less than one minimum NHL contract.

Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were able to make themselves league darlings last season as the team’s depth made life much easier for their stars. Now the Blackhawks are a lot like many other top-heavy NHL teams and the results haven’t been flattering.

That being said, the team still possesses a talented group at its core, so you can’t totally count them out. We cannot help but ask: do you think the Blackhawks are a playoff team? Let us know in this poll.

Capitals end their losing skid with 3-2 win against Ottawa; Washington gets Southeast lead back


Sure, the Western Conference is far more tumultuous than the East, but that doesn’t mean that things cannot change in a single evening. And yes, beating the Ottawa Senators shouldn’t be a cause for celebration, but the Washington Capitals will gladly take any win they can get after losing 8 in a row (0-6-2 in that stretch).

Washington 3, Ottawa 2

Perhaps the best thing about this win was that the Capitals finally came back from a deficit after occasionally shrinking under the pressure of being behind by a goal or two.

Ryan Shannon and Chris Kelly gave Ottawa a 2-0 lead after one period, but a three goal second gave Washington all they needed to win. Mathieu Perreault was the unlikely hero, scoring the Caps’ first and game-winning goals while Eric Fehr also scored for Washington.

Michael Neuvirth earned his 13th win of the season with a 24 for 26 save performance while Brian Elliott kept Ottawa in it, setting aside 31 of the 34 Capitals’ attempts.

While 10th-place Senators are seeing their playoff hopes fade, the Capitals regained everything they lost on Saturday. They’re back to being the second seed in the East and the top team in the Southeast Division, even if those leads are slim because they’ve played more games than their peers.

Still, for a team that was reeling under the HBO spotlight, any win is a beautiful win. They’ll take what they can get.

If the postseason started today, all five Central Division teams would make the playoffs

When I made my predictions for the regular season, I decide to go out on a limb and chose four Central Division teams to make the playoffs, meaning that the division would represent half of the Western Conference’s postseason squads. I actually might have been too conservative with my Central Division praise, though, being that each team would make the playoffs if they started today.

(John Manasso of NHL.com pointed this fact out on Sunday.)

For a quick look at where they rank in the top eight in the West, here’s a screen shot from NBC’s team standings. Click here for the full standings if you want to get a comprehensive look at the situation.

Let’s take a cursory glance at how each Central team is doing so far.

2. Chicago

The Blackhawks might not rank so high in the West much longer since they’re actually quite average (7-6-1). Their 14 games played is three more than any other team except for the wholly awful Anaheim Ducks (12 GP), so quite a few teams should leapfrog them.

4. St. Louis

The Jaroslav Halak experiment is passing with flying colors right now. The Blues are currently on a four-game winning streak, allowing only 17 goals in nine games played so far this season.

5. Detroit

The Red Wings have been dealing with injury problems so far, as Brian Rafalski, Johan Franzen and now both their goalies are dealing with bumps and bruises. Yet a resurgent Nicklas Lidstrom (11 points in nine games) and a talented, experienced group has this team starting strong.

6. Nashville

It really says a lot about this division that three of its teams make up the 4-5-6 spots. The Predators are sliding a little bit, as they’ve dropped two games and allowed two more goals than they produced, but they’re a scrappy bunch who should be in the playoff picture this season.

8. Columbus

The Blue Jackets are, by my estimation, the biggest surprise (and the most likely to flounder). They’ve allowed five more goals than they produced and are only 3-3 at home, yet who would have thought they’d be in front of Vancouver and San Jose so far this season?


Chances are pretty strong that at least one – if not two – of these teams will fall out of the picture. I’d venture that the Blue Jackets are the most likely to plummet out of the playoffs while the Predators need to keep fighting to stick around.

Either way, the division is probably the best in the NHL right now. The last three Western Conference champions have come from this division, so maybe it shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.