Home Ice Advantage

Thanks to the Edmonton Oilers and their 5-1 thrashing of the Calgary Flames, the ‘Hawks have now clinched home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.  Their likely opponent will probably be the aforementioned Flames, who now must win their final game against Edmonton and hope Vancouver loses in regulation to the craptastic Colorado Avalanche to win the Northwest Division. 

It’s been quite the fall from grace for the Flames.  They hit their high water mark on March 5th (just one day after the trade deadline and the Olli Jokinen deal) when they were 39-19-6.  Since then, they’ve gone 6-11-0.  Their problems are two-fold: power play and mediocre goaltending.  Surely the recipe on which many quick playoff exits have been originated.

If you thought the ‘Hawks had power play problems, the Flames haven’t scored a power play since March 23rd.  During that time, they’ve gone 0 for 42.  Of course, you could easily make the argument they are overdue for goals.  So, when they score on their first four power play attempts during the post-season, you’ll know who to blame. 

Just like any good Mike Keenan team, the number one goalie plays the lion’s share of games.  It’s no different with the Kipper as he’s started 73 games this year.  His play during the last month has suggested he may be starting to wear out.   Since March 23rd, he’s given up at least 4 goals in five of their last 13 games. 

–In perhaps one of the biggest underdog stories of modern NHL history, the St. Louis Blues somehow qualified for the NHL playoffs.  After losing 321 players to injury and using a goalie found on the scrap heap, the Blues still managed to accumulate 90 points.  Thank God, the ‘Hawks won’t have to see them until at least the second round, but at that point, everyone would be too excited that Detroit and San Jose were elminated to care.

–In what will hopefully be the much ado about nothing injury report, Kris Versteeg banged himself up at practice yesterday.

The rookie was skating by himself when he tripped and fell along the boards. He got up slowly and skated to the bench area while holding his right arm. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said afterward, “we don’t think it’s serious.”

Of course, the ‘Hawks never say any injury is serious.  Hell, Patrick Sharp almost bled out his leg and everyone thought he’d be back in a game.  So we’ll see how this plays out.

–Here’s a fantastic post from Chris proving that some NHL scouts, or insiders, aren’t the sharpest skates in the locker room.

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