The following ran in Sunday’s edition of “The Committed Indian”:
There was a forgettable movie made in the 80’s (weren’t they all?) called ‘The Blob’. Unless you’re really interested in seeing the crap Kevin Dillon used to make before he joined the cast of ‘Entourage’, then you’ve probably missed this one. The slow-moving ooze from another planet devoured everything that got in its path. The more life-forms it consumed, the bigger it got; the bigger it got, the harder it became to escape from.
In other words, it was exactly like the Western Conference this year. From the 2nd seed to the 12th seed, as of the time of this writing, only five points separate the ten teams. Unfortunately, unlike the past two seasons, the Hawks find themselves right in the middle of the Blob.
Let’s take a look at who else is part of the Blob, who’s a serious playoff threat, and who the Hawks will have to beat if they want to rise out of the Blob.
First though, let’s eliminate some teams from the Blob. Detroit, unfortunately, has pretty much locked up the division. The only thing we can hope for now is for the old legs to start feeling old in April. And, Vancouver and Colorado are going to have breathing room because they get to play Edmonton, Calgary and Minnesota 18 times a year.
And now, to the Blob.
Dallas Stars– The Stars are still hanging around, thanks to their hot start. The Stars have two really strong scoring lines and are getting ridiculous goaltending from Kari Lethonen. Unfortunately, they’re essentially run by the league thanks to Tom Hicks running the team into the ground. So they won’t be able to make any additions to their team and the better their record stays, the more aggressive opposing teams will become to keep Brad Richards and his linemates off the scoresheet. Something he hasn’t really been accustomed to in a couple years.
Games left vs. the Hawks: 3 (2 in the Lone Star State, 1 at the UC). Great at home, horrendous on the road. Doesn’t really smell like a playoff team to us.
Nashville Predators– These bastards need no introduction. Once again, the Predators find themselves in the thick of the action. Don’t worry, once the regular season ends they’ll catch their lunch again. Quite frankly, just thinking about them annoys us so let’s not waste anymore time here.
Games left: 4 (2 at home, 2 at the UC). Good news is things tend to even out between the Preds and Hawks during the course of a season. The Hawks have lost their first two meetings.
Anaheim Ducks– Since we are the Olympic hockey headquarters, allow us to scream in delight with the fact that the U.S. team has a bona fide defensive stud in Cam Fowler. Ok, now back to it. The Ducks are essentially a one line team with Jonas Hiller in net. So kind of like Team Switzerland. So far, the Hawks really haven’t had a problem with them.
Games left: 2 (1 in Disney, 1 at the UC).
Los Angeles Kings– The Kings have been the team to watch out for the last couple years. They’re another team that relies almost solely on their top line (and power play) to provide their O-ffense. When that well runs dry, then Michael Handzus and company have to take over. Consider us under-whelmed. After nearly eclipsing the 60-point mark last year, Drew Doughty has done far less than has been expected of him this season, only notching a goal and 10 assists thus far.
Games left: 2 (1 in La La Land, 1 at the UC – tonight’s game, dummy). The Hawks have taken all four points thus far.
Columbus Blue Jackets– You again? We thought we were done with you guys. This is basically the exact same team that couldn’t crack 80 points last year. Now they’re threatening to hang around the playoff race with the likes of Antoine Vermette and Jakub Voracek doing the heavy lifting. Come on. This has to be some kind of sick joke played out by Doug Maclean.
Games left: 4 (2 in Columbus, 2 at the UC). Um, let’s not let another two-goal lead at home disappear to these dopes and six points from them shouldn’t be out of the question.
San Jose Sharks– It would be entertaining if the hockey gods have finally had enough with them and just not allow them to make the playoffs. Unless something catastrophic happens, though, there is simply too much offensive firepower here. They’re still short on the defensive end (think they still want Hjalmarsson for a first- and third-round pick?) but they will be in the thick of it until the bitter end.
Games left: 2 (Both at the UC). The Hawks owe them a serious beating as they’ve only grabbed one point in their two meetings.
Phoenix Coyotes– Last year they were a cute story. This year, not so much. In 18 shootouts last year, they were 15-3! This year, they’ve already lost three times in a shootout. Quite frankly, if Dave Tippett drags this rag-tag group of rejects into the playoffs two consecutive years, he should retire and declare himself a hockey god.
Games left: 3 (2 in the desert, 1 at the UC).
St. Louis Blues– They have suffered injuries to just about every key player on their roster, yet somehow, they’ve managed to keep their heads above water. For now. What they have going for them is a significant home ice advantage as they’re simply not giving away points at home. For them to stay in the race, that will have to continue. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves in the same place they were last year.
Games left (2 in the Hellhole, 1 at the UC). The Hawks have to win one game in St. Louis this year. The encouraging news is they’re usually good for one.
You figure of Dallas, San Jose and Los Angeles, one of them is going to win the division. So, leaving out Detroit, Vancouver and Colorado, that leaves eight teams battling it out for four spots.
Assuming the Hawks can keep their head above water (which is no promise these days), the situation isn’t as dire as you’d think. Columbus and Phoenix are garbage, and the Ducks will combust at some point. Now it’s five teams going for four spots.
The best thing that could happen is Los Angeles or San Jose claim its division so Dallas gets thrown into the mix, because they’re not nearly as strong as the other two. The Predators are a lock, unfortunately. Barry Trotz and his voodoo magic won’t allow anything less. Whoever doesn’t win the Pacific between the Kings and Sharks will also make the playoffs.
So that leaves the Blues, Blackhawks, and Stars left to battle it out for the other two spots.
The Blob has a long way to go before it freezes and explodes over the surviving teams. It’s going to be a long and wet ride.