Scoreboard-watching Hawks keep tabs on Blues, Preds
Jonathan Toews checks the standings in the morning. Andrew Shaw takes a peek before he goes to bed. Bryan Bickell will check things out as the night progresses.
Yes, it's that time of year -- scoreboard watching time, and there was plenty of it to be had Tuesday night with St. Louis and Nashville both in action as the Blackhawks hosted Minnesota at the United Center.
The Hawks failed to gain any ground on their division rivals as they fell 2-1 thanks to a pair of third-period goals. Mikael Granlund scored midway through the period and Jason Zucker added another goal less than four minutes later. Granlund's goal snapped a 122-plus minute scoring drought by the Wild, which was shut out the night before by Winnipeg.
Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk stopped 32 shots and improved to 27-8-2 since joining the Wild in mid-January.
Bryan Bickell gave the Hawks life, scoring with Corey Crawford out of the net and 1:48 left in the game. But Bickell's 14th goal of the season was too little, too late.
The Hawks did get very good news as the Blues fell 1-0 to the Jets, keeping St. Louis' point total at 105. The Hawks play at St. Louis on Thursday.
Of the three guys I talked with before the game, Bickell definitely showed the most interest in keeping tabs on the nightly action.
"I don't go goal by goal," Bickell said. "I'm not that intense, but you always want to see how teams are doing, root for the upsets."
The end-of-season atmosphere certainly isn't reaching the levels we'll see next week, but Toews said it's a good primer, especially with the Blues, Predators and Blackhawks all separated by just 3 points coming into Tuesday.
"Game 1 (of the playoffs) is still going to be on another level, regardless of who we play," Toews said. "But the fact that every game the points matter, you're playing against teams that are in the same position, that adds to it. It's almost a sprint to the finish. It is good preparation and a good preview of what playoff hockey's going to look like."
Said Bickell: "It's exciting. There's teams that are in and out of the playoffs every other day. It's also nice that we've clinched, but we have an opportunity to move up."
The last-gasp efforts to gain points come Thursday in St. Louis and Saturday in Colorado for the Hawks. Shaw knows those are must-win scenarios if the Hawks hope to earn home-ice in the first round, and possibly and Central Division title.
"It's nice to see those teams lose at this time of year," Shaw said. "You want to climb the standings and earn that home-ice advantage. Then again, you can't rely on a team to lose; you want to be a team to win and earn that spot."