This is it. The last week of the regular season. Three more games until the season from hell is finally in our rearview mirrors.
But the Blackhawks have one more piece of business to attend to: spoiling the St. Louis Blues’ playoff hopes.
To say that the Blackhawks and the Blues do not like each other is an understatement. Before the sweep by the Nashville Predators last year in the playoffs, there was Game 7, when the Blues downed the Hawks in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. Before that, there was Game 6 of the 2014 playoffs, with the Hawks eliminating the Blues in six games.
So there’s no love lost.
Patrick Kane said it as much yesterday, that he would love to have a hand in eliminating the Blues. Its also on Eric Gustafsson’s mind. It was his defensive blunder that led to Troy Brouwer’s game-winning goal back in 2015. That also led to his “banishment” to Rockford. Now that he’s made his way back into the National, I’m sure he would love nothing more than to pay St. Louis back. The two teams play twice this week, starting Wednesday in St. Louis and Friday here in Chicago, coincidentally the last home game of the regular season for the Hawks.
Now, the Blues are currently a point outside the wildcard spots, currently held by the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche. The Blues, who have one game on hand against Colorado, technically can afford to lose both games to Chicago, granted that they stay at least a point behind the Avs, who they play in their last regular season game. Both teams are down significant players, and are the team that wins will basically bee limping into the playoffs.
It may not be the Stanley Cup, and the four points that they can steal from the Blues would actually hurt their lottery chances, but man, the opportunity to help block the Blues from playing for hockey’s ultimate prize is a too good of an opportunity to pass on.
Mikita to get “One More Shift”
Blackhawks legend, and all-time great, Stan Mikita, one half of the duo that brought home the 1961 Cup, will be honored by the organization before Friday’s game with “One More Shift”. Mikita played from 1958-1980, all with the Blackhawks.
Mikita, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983, is one of hockey’s greatest players. He is the only player to have won the Art Ross, the Hart and the Lady Byng in the same season, and doing so in consecutive seasons, in 1966-67 and 1967-68. Before that, he already won the Art Ross twice, also in consecutive seasons, in 1963-64 and 1964-65. He was also honored last year by the league by naming him as one of the 100 Greatest Players of All Time.
Mikita holds the Blackhawks’ all time records in games played (1,396), assists (926) and points (1,467). He is second in the team only to Bobby Hull in goals (541). His number 21 sweater was the first number to be retired by the Blackhawks.
Mikita, who is an official Blackhawks ambassador, has been out of the public eye for three years now. He suffers from Lewy-body dementia. His grandsons, Charlie, Billy, and Tommy Gnieser will take the ice with the Blackhawks for the pre-game ceremony on Friday.
Mikita will be the fifth former player to be awarded honored by the Blackhawks with “One More Shift”. Bryan Bickell, Al Secord, Eric Daze and Troy Murray were the others.
Toews, Hayden, Duclair updates
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who missed the last five games due to an upper body injury, may play Wednesday night against the Blues. Toews, who practiced yesterday, has 20 goals in the season. John Hayden, who has missed the last three games, also practiced, but will most likely not draw into Wednesday night’s lineup. Anthony Duclair did not practice. Both also suffer upper body injuries.
The Sedins are hanging it up
Henrik and Daniel Sedin, long the cornerstones of the Vancouver Canucks, announced their retirement in a letter to the Canucks faithful. The Sedins were drafted 1st and 2nd overall in the 1999 NHL Draft.
The Sedins dont have a lot of goodwill with Blackhawks fans, the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs saw to that. And while I myself have joined countless others in calling the Sedins “the sisters”, I have come to regret that, for a multitude of reasons.
The Sedins were one of the very first players to champion the cause of You Can Play, the organization that promotes the game of hockey across the barriers of race, gender and disability.
The Sedins may have been difficult and tenacious on the ice, but they have proven themselves to be stand-up gentlemen off of it, as evidenced by the autographed stick they gave to Patrick Sharp after their last game in the United Center last March 22. A memento exchanged between three players who will arguably be forever exalted in their respective franchises, a remembrance of a time when they were at the top of their careers, those halcyon days when they were the league’s measuring sticks for greatness.
They have become great ambassadors of the game, and they will be greatly missed, even by this Blackhawks fan.