Blackhawks clinch playoff spot thanks to Brent Seabrook’s winner
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org March 31, 2012 11:18PM
Dave Bolland and Brent Seabrook sandwich the Predators’ Martin Erat along the boards. | John Russell~Getty Images
Updated: May 2, 2012 8:29AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There won’t be a playoff mullet for Patrick Kane this year. He’ll try something new for his and the Blackhawks’ fourth consecutive playoff run.
“I don’t know about it this year,” Kane joked after the Hawks clinched their playoff berth with a 5-4 victory against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.
“It didn’t work last year, and it kind of ruined my whole hairdo for the summer. I might just keep the flow going and stick with what’s working.”
With three games left, the fourth seed, which the Predators have a grasp on, and home ice are still attainable for the Hawks. If that’s the case, a tough matchup against the Predators in the first round might loom, so the Hawks didn’t hide their desire to send a message.
Thanks to defenseman Brent Seabrook’s game-winner at 8:19 of the third period, the Hawks notched their first regulation victory over the Predators in six games. The Hawks remain in sixth place but are tied with the Red Wings at 97 points. They trail the Predators by one point and have one more game against the Wings.
“Fourth place is still attainable, so hopefully we can win some games and get home ice,” Kane said. “It’d be nice to start out at home.”
In many ways, this Hawks’ victory resembled their season. They got off to a fast start and took a big lead, frittered it away and then managed to recover and prevail.
The maligned power play produced twice for the Hawks, who received goals from Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Kane and Viktor Stalberg for a 4-0 lead.
But less than a minute after Stalberg’s 20th goal, things got dicey as the Hawks got “too comfortable,” rookie Andrew Shaw said. The Predators got some power plays and swung the momentum in their favor in a hurry.
Star defenseman Shea Weber scored twice, including the game-tying goal at 7:10 of the third on a power play, Martin Erat also had a power-play goal and Alexander Radulov pulled off a highlight-reel move on Seabrook and Sean O’Donnell for a goal.
“We were probably on our heels the rest of the game,” said Kane, who also had an assist.
But Shaw’s beautiful setup and Seabrook’s goal put an end to that momentum just 69 seconds after Weber had tied it.
“We got our stuff back together and competed,” said Shaw, who had two assists.
Just like during their season.
With Jonathan Toews (concussion) cleared for contact and Duncan Keith having two games left on his suspension, the Hawks remain on a big upswing. Since their nine-game losing streak, they are 15-5-2.
Despite allowing four goals, Corey Crawford (29 saves) made several key stops, including a sprawling side-to-side save on Nick Spaling. Pekka Rinne (32 saves) also made some standout saves for the Predators — who had handily defeated the Red Wings a night earlier — to prevent the Hawks from completely pulling away.
“Last year was nerve-racking,” coach Joel Quenneville said of needing the Minnesota Wild to defeat the Dallas Stars to seal their playoff berth last season.
Now, they can focus on positioning.
“Where we’re at, we’ve got to catch two pretty good teams right in front of us,” Quenneville said. “We’ll see how that plays itself out.”