BAD VIBRATIONS - Minnesota North Stars 5, Blackhawks 4 (SO)
The Minnesota North Stars made their triumphant return to Chicago tonight and grabbed a Bettman Point in a 5-4 shootout win over the Blackhawks. A regulation win would have kept the hopes for a 4 seed alive for the Hawks after Detroit got two points against the Panthers this afternoon, but it was not to be. Mathematically it's still possible but the Hawks are going to need a lot of help. More on that in a bit.
This was an unexpected fight-filled tilt that brought to mind the old rivalry between the North Stars and Blackhawks where everyone knew someone was going to lose some teeth. I half expected to see Dino Ciccarelli jump out of the stands to take on Andrew Shaw. I'm not so sure the Blackhawks were ready for the Wild to be this angsty and after Dany Heatley took a two-hand swipe at one of Patrick Kane's silky mitts things got out of hand. The highlight had to be Brandon Bollig's trash talking that almost got Heatley to lose his mind. Instead, Cheech and Chong's favorite hockey player Clayton Stoner took Bollig on in a relatively boring fight.
While the Hawks worried about getting revenge for Heatley's earlier transgression the Wild took advantage of some porous defense and lackluster goaltending to jump out to a 4-2 lead. They then sat back and tried to suck the life out of the Hawks and the entire United Center, as the Wild are known to do, but Andrew Shaw set up Patrick Kane for a late power play goal that tied the game and sent everyone into a frenzy. With the chances few and far between in overtime the Wild ended up coming away with the win in the Game of Groans. Let's get to the things.
- Viktor Stalberg again played like a man possessed. He could have had a few goals and I'm not exaggerating. I still can't believe this is the same guy who I once said I'd throw a pizza party for if he could ever skate without crashing into a stationary object. Now he's dangling the puck like a regular Forsberg.
- We're going to call the Stalberg, Sharp and Kruger line the Sploosh Line from now on. Sure, they may not be together much longer given coach Quenneville's penchant for throwing his players names into a woodchipper to see what comes out - but this will do for now. Each guy was a plus two tonight, each had a point and Stals had five shots on goal.
- Patrick Kane had two more goals tonight and made a nice return after taking the aforementioned slash to the hand. He sat on the bench for a bit but got back out there relatively quickly and contributed in a big way. He also had a slick move in the shootout that resulted in a conversion.
- Corey Crawford is definitely the number one goalie going into the playoffs.
- I'll just say that the four goals weren't completely Ray Emery's fault - there's rarely a game where all the goals are simply goalie ineptitude (unless it's a Leafs game) - but he gives up more rebounds than a midget basketball team and moves like Sean O'Donnell's grandfather.
- Can we just put Sean O'Donnell in a home? A home that has doors that lock from the outside? At one point he sent a slapshot toward the net so slowly that by the time it reached Josh Harding it died of old age.
- Andrew Brunette was a scratch with a leg issue. I have no idea when or how this happened but let's hope it's not a long term thing.
- People are probably comforting themselves with the idea of the wonderful six seed where the Hawks don't have to face the super scary Predators or the big, bad Detroit Red Wings. No, instead they'll have to play the first two games on the road most likely at Phoenix or Los Angeles. Do you know how they have fared on the road this year? They've won 17 games and lost 22. Do you know how they've fared against Los Angeles? They're 1-3. Do you know how they've fared against Phoenix? 1-2-1. My point is there are no easy match ups and you need to be very careful what you wish for. I can somewhat understand people who would rather have the six over the five but if you think the 4th seed and home ice advantage isn't worth coveting than I honestly feel sorry for you.
Based on the remaining games, the Predators have the inside track to the 4th seed. So the odds say the Hawks will get the precious, beloved sixth seed while the Preds and Wings will beat the living hell out of each other. Meanwhile, the Hawks could end up facing any one of the Kings, Sharks, Stars or Coyotes in the first round. If anyone wants to win the Pacific division it is there for the taking. Should be a fun week so let's enjoy it.
Next up the Hawks take on the North Stars again in their barn. Perhaps they can concentrate on scoreboard-based revenge instead of trying to fight a team with nothing to lose. Remember the old adage - never fight an ugly dude. Go Hawks.