We've invoked the term "must win" around here probably a little too frequently in the last month, admittedly. But, in our defense, what's going on in the west right now truly is unprecedented, and the swings in points and position have made reactionary lunatics out of all but the most stoic of us. With four games left, the latter two of which being against a rapidly healing Scum squad, the two games prior are of paramount importance, starting tonight at the Bell Center in Montreal against the Habs. Les Habitants find themselves in a similar position as the Hawks, jockeying for position out East, and they're able to clinch a playoff spot of their own with a win tonight. But that's kind of been a problem lately, going 4-6 in their last 10, which included a three game stretch in which they were shut out consecutively. In fact, the Habs haven't scored a goal against a playoff team since March 18th against the Rangers. And the Habs managed all of this while still having the #7 overall power play unit in the league at 19.3 percent. The problem has been even strength, where they've only scored 151 of their 205 total goals. Pacing them offensively is Tomas Plekanec, who while likely overpaid, is pretty much maxing out what he can be at 56 points (21G-35A). Elsewhere among the forwards, it's still the same bunch of Smurfs that have been there since last year, with captain Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, and Scott Gomez, who no matter how many times he changes his number can't hide from the bloated contract he's been stealing, all populate the top 6. Former Hawk Travis Moen and Mathieu Darche provide what can be constituted as sandpaper, and the other Kostitsyn that isn't in Nashville is still hanging around being a pecker in Montreal.
On the blue line, P.K. Subban has been their top producer offensively, but still has had some decision making issues in his own end as young d-men do, which his -7 speaks toward. Roman Hamrlik is having a surprising season with a +6 and 33 points despite reeking of formaldehyde as one of the last remaining players of NHL '94 still in the league. James Wisniewski, savior that he is on his 4th team in two years, is still busy scraping the rafters for shot windups and being a liability in his own end. With Andrei Markov long since shelved, the remainder of the the D-corps are gunboats, with old friend Brent Sopel, Paul Mara, and the U.S.S. Hal Gill. Backstopping this lot is Carey Price, who, despite being kind of a dick, has actually proved the Habs braintrust right in their decision to keep him and launch playoff Jesus Jaro Halak. There had been some MVP talk surrounding Price coming off his first all star appearance, but that's cooled recently as his stats have come back down, with a 2.39 GAA, but a sterling .921 save percentage while facing 29.7 shots a night. Maybe if he laid off the Marlboros it'd be even better, but who knows, they might help.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, with Patrick Sharp still out, but likely skating tomorrow, and Dave Bolland enjoying blinking lights, loud music, and maybe booze with a brain injury, the Hawks themselves haven't scored a goal against a playoff team since last Monday in Detroit. Both of these teams have gone so limp-dicked offensively that tonight's contest could very well resemble two 10-year-olds beating each other with styrofoam noodles in a backyard pool. With the lines getting jumbled by the shift, it's really anyone's guess as to what the fuck they're going to look like tonight other than Toews and Kane being together on the top line, and Marian Hossa hung out to dry on the second. Past those three, the forward corps really has been just a lot of dog barf, which has hamstrung Quenneville's options in close games and forced him to pile the minutes on. Speaking of piled on minutes, if the Hawks can keep Keith, Seabrook, and Campbell even near the 25 minute mark, it would be a welcome respite from the minutes they've been logging. And even though it's Tuesday, here's a fun new drinking game to play - take a sip every time the puck is on Hammer's tape for less than a full beat or without even one stickhandle of it. You'll be torched by the TV timeout at the 10 minute mark of the first. Predictably, Corey Crawford gets his 24th start in a row, but this one is his first in his home town, and he's admittedly nervous. Let's hope that doesn't lead to an early goal.
The way these two teams have been playing, this one figures to go into the shootout scoreless, and both coaches emptying their respective benches on shooters hoping someone, anyone will dent the twine until it reaches Gill and Hammer respectively. We can only close our eyes and wait for Hammer to channel his inner Marek Malik in that opportunity. Both these teams desperately need these two points any way they come. It's time to find out who wants them more. Let's go Hawks.