Blackhawks rollover the Flames 3-1 as Crawford is playoff ready

Blackhawks rollover the Flames 3-1 as Crawford is playoff ready

The Blackhawks continue to rack up points as a remarkable season is coming to a close. In front of 22,048 appreciative United Center fans the Blackhawks defeated the Calgary Flames 3-1. For those who were concerned the Hawks would sputter into the playoffs, fear not. After last night's victory the Hawks are blistering 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. 

Corey Crawford finished off his regular season with a really solid performance. My thinking is Crawford will not play tonight in St. Louis and his confidence should be sky high as the playoffs are set to begin. 

It looked like Crawford was going to have an easy night but his teammates lost some interest after the first period. If not for some big stops the Flames could have stormed back to take the lead. Crawford did what top starting goal tenders do as he come up big when needed. Crawford played the most complete game of anyone on the ice and deservedly was named the number one star. 

Both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews recorded their 23rd goal and an unsung Blackhawk was also rewarded with a rare tally. 

Marcus Kruger scored only his fourth goal of the year but his contributions exceed his point total. Kruger is all effort and pound for pound one tough customer. He often gets checked hard along the boards but has avoided serious injury. 

Kruger notched a goal versus the Flames because he didn't hesitate to shoot. Kruger would record more goals if he shot more but he makes his impact in different ways. Scoring goals is great but other contributions are needed to have a balanced team. 

Kruger has become one of the better penalty killers in the league and is a defensive specialist. Kruger is a favorite of Joel Quenneville because he is responsible on both sides of the puck. That's why Quenneville doesn't hesitate to use Kruger in the final minutes of close games. Kruger is appreciated by his teammates and has a high hockey IQ. 

Quenneville will look to rest as many regulars as possible as the Hawks face the Blues in an important game for St. Louis. The Blues are in a battle with Los Angeles and San Jose for the fourth spot in the Western Conference. The four/five playoff match-up is often a tussle, and having home ice advantage could be the deciding factor. 

Rockford goal keeper Carter Hutton should get the start as Ray Emery is still nursing a lower body injury. Ice Hog defenseman Ryan Stanton should also see some playing time. There will be other new faces as Quenneville will look to distribute ice time and avoid injuries. Tonight's contest will mark a rare occasion as getting a win doesn't matter at all, although the Blues will think differently.

The official schedule for the opening round of the playoffs will be out soon. The unofficial word going around is the Blackhawks will play at home next Wednesday and Friday. 

I will be back Saturday to share some playoff thoughts. You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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