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Blackhawks close record breaking season and look forward to Playoffs

By Colleen Boyle

Close of the Regular Season

The overtime loss against the Detroit Red Wings last Sunday was a disappointment for the Chicago Blackhawks players and fans alike. But it does not cast a shadow over a very successful regular season that broke records and allowed the team to hold onto the Division title from what seems like day one of the 2009-2010 season.

The team finishes the regular season with a 52-22-8 record—setting a new franchise record of 52 wins and a significant improvement over the last few years. The 112 points and the 23 road wins earned in the regular season also establishes new franchise records.

Consider the team’s place in the league for the last few seasons. In 2006-2007, the team finished 25th. In 2007-2008, the team finished 19th. In 2008-2009, the team finished 6th. And finally, this season the Chicago Blackhawks finish in 3rd place.

The overall improvement of the team is not just the effect of adding a few famous names, but it is the result of putting together a team with very in-depth talent. Thirteen players have earned more than 20 points in the regular season. Eight players have a plus ten rating or higher.

While the loss to Detroit put Chicago in second place for the Western Conference with only one point behind San Jose, the team still finishes third in the league. If finished first, Blackhawks would have secured home ice advantage throughout the post season but still secure home ice advantage against Nashville Predators—the first team Chicago faces in the post season.

The team also tied the NHL record for biggest deficit overcome in the league when they faced Calgary Flames on home ice at the beginning of the season. Calgary scored five goals in the first period of the game, and it took the Blackhawks three periods to score five unanswered goals and bring the game into overtime.

Although it did not break any NHL records, Christobal Huet stayed strong in an eleven round shootout against the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 1st. The longest shootout in team history, it was defenseman Brent Seabrook who ended the contest after ten offensive players failed to end it.

Patrick Kane recorded a career high 88 points this season with 30 goals and 58 points. Kane’s plus or minus rating improved to a +16 while Kane finished the 2008-2009 regular season at a -2.

Similar improvements can be seen in players such as Defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Captain Jonathan Toews is one point short of matching his 69 points earned in the 2008-2009 season (but played six fewer games this season). Toews biggest improvement is similar to Patrick Kane; Toews finishes this regular season with a +22—while last season he finished at +12.

Playoff Preview

Chicago Blackhawks will begin the Quarterfinals round tonight against the Nashville Predators—marking the first playoff matchup between the two teams.

Coach Joel Quenneville seems to have made Antti Niemi the starting goaltender. Niemi was the starting goalie in the last nine regular season games and ranks 4th in the league with a 2.25 goal against average. Both Christobal Huet and Niemi have never played in a NHL playoff series.

Nashville Predators’ starting goalie Pekka Rinne’s regular season record is 32-16-5 with a goals against average of 2.53. Tonight game against Chicago will mark Rinne’s first NHL playoff game as well.

In the regular season, the Blackhawks have faced Nashville six times and gained four wins in the regular season, but the two teams have not seen one another since December 27, 2010. In six games, Chicago scored 15 goals and allowed 12 goals against.

One major advantage the Blackhawks should have in the playoff series is offensive presence. In the regular season, Chicago had 271 goals scored while Nashville had 225.

Chicago leads the NHL regular season average of 34.1 shots on goal while Nashville places 12th with 30.6 average shots on goal. Similarly, the Blackhawks lead the least shots on goal allowed with an average of 25.1 per goal, and Nashville averaged 29.2 per game in the regular season.

Overall, Chicago allows fewer shots on goal while always putting a lot of shots on net against the opponent. If the Blackhawks can improve on their power play, Chicago will be a serious threat for any team even looking to play in the Stanley Cup Finals.


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