By Brad Vandenberk
With the last weekend of the NHL season upon us, it is reassuring to know that the Hawks will be going to the playoffs and cannot get into a higher spot than the 3rd seed. Over the past few weeks it was the Avalanche that the Hawks thought they would face for the first round, but with the Blues latest slide it could be either opponent. Being the third seed means that they will not have home ice for the first round. So now it’s time to sit back and let me be your host for the final 2 games of the year. The question now is, do the Hawks rest a few players, Olympic athletes, or do you ride the momentum you are currently on?
The ‘Hawks are on a 4 game winning streak without 2 of their stars, Kane and Toews. Good news is both players are skating and look to be 100% for the first game of the playoffs. These last 2 games are both on the road with more players possibly looking to watch from the press box versus risking injury. This already started to happen tonight in Washington with Duncan Keith taking the night off giving his “A” to Marian Hossa for the game. Teuvo Teravainen was sent to Rockford this week. Coach Q mentioned that they wanted him to get some playing time in and with the IceHogs vying for a playoff spot, his debut couldn’t be better timed.
Corey Crawford got the start in this game on the road looking to get one more tune up before the post season. With the season ending on the back to back Antti Raanta looks to be between the pipes on Saturday in Nashville. Jaroslav Halak was in for the home team. The Hawks were used to Halak facing him in the Blues rivalry. Dave Rundblad, Peter Regin, Matt Carey joined Keith taking this one in from a bird’s eye view.
It was noticeable from the opening faceoff that there was truly nothing to play for, just hoping for a healthy exit and let’s get to the post season already. Just 1:03 into the game Marcus Kruger takes a holding call and puts the Caps on their first power play of the night. During the man advantage, you will never guess who scored to put the Capitals up 1-0. Alex Ovechkin from his office, on a one timer shot, from the circle, beating Crawford short side for his 51st of the year clearly claiming the Rocket Richard trophy. Bryan Bickell misses a chance on the door step as he watches the puck slip right through his feet. The visitors become sloppy with passes going long and trouble escaping their own zone. Jay Beagle capitalizes, no pun intended, on these mistakes and finds a wide open net 2-0. Nick Leddy left the winger at the side of the net and Crawford couldn’t make the save. Not long after, Joel Ward breaks through the defense and beats Crawford but not the post, Ward thought it was in sending his hands sky high. The Hawks get their first power play attempt when rookie Connor Carrick gets called for interference on Brandon Saad. The Hawks fail to muster up something that even resembles a scoring chance. The period ends with both teams tied at 7 shots a piece.
The bleeding didn’t stop early in the second period. Nicklas Backstrom, throws a puck on net from the corner almost behind the goal line banking it off Crawford’s back and in the net 3-0. I think it’s time for Crow to head to the bench and sport the baseball cap. The mistakes keep piling up with the Hawks getting caught with too many men. During the penalty kill, Capitals Marcus Johansson takes a shot of the hand and heads right to the dressing room and did not return. Crawford starts to sharpen up making some saves in close. Caps keep on coming, Crawford is forced to break up a 3 on 1 leaping out of his crease with a toe save. Mikhail Grabovski is absolutely robbed by Crow as he makes a cross crease save. Ovie creates a turnover and breaks in alone. He fires a shot which Crawford fights off. Hawks begin to mix it up when Bickell and Andrew Shaw have a few words for the Great 8. No punches were exchanged. With 3:44 left in the period, Jason Chimera works behind the Hawks net and finds an open Beagle in the slot and he beats Crawford for his 2nd of the night 4-0. The Caps get busted for a Too Many Men call with 42 seconds left in the period giving the Hawks a 1:18 power play to open the final frame. The Hawks are being outshot 20-16.
Antti Raanta led the Hawks out on the ice to open the third. This is the best idea! Crawford can rest now until a potential Thursday series start. Capitals get another power play early in the third when Sheldon Brookbank heads to the box for roughing. While penalty killing the Hawks draw a penalty booking Ovechkin for hooking, we get 41 seconds of 4 on 4 hockey. Newly called up Joakim Nordstrom continues his aggressive play ringing one off the post. Both him and Jeremy Morin have been playing their tails off during this 4 game winning streak, it would be nice to see them get some playoff hockey under their belts. Johnny Oduya makes a great defensive play on Ovie dropping on a puck negating the Russian from a breakaway. Beagle is very close to getting his hat trick with Coach Adam Oates keeping him on the ice. Saad uses his speed to break down the boards but also strikes iron. Raanta only sees a few shots on net robbing Beagle again on a 2 on 1. The game ends with the Hawks being shutout for their 4th time this season and Halak picks up his 30th career shutout in a 4-0 final.
Sharp Shaw Hossa Hjalmarsson Seabrook
Morin Smith Bickell Oduya Rozsival
Saad Handzus Versteeg Leddy Brookbank
Nordstrom Kruger Bollig
-Hawks out shot Washington 34-27
-Hawks went 0/3 on the power play, Caps 1/3.
-Shaw went 4/16 in the faceoff dot, Smith 2/5, Handzus 8/12 and Kruger 1/6,
-With Keith out of the lineup, Rozsival led all Hawks in TOI 21:39.
-Now is scoreboard watching time. If the Avs beat the Sharks tonight, they will clinch first in the central division. The Blues also need a win against Dallas to keep pace for first spot.
-Hawks finish their season on Saturday night in Nashville with probably a few more stars taking the night off.