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One Minute Remaining: March Madness

by Harvey Wittenberg / Chicago Blackhawks
There's little doubt since the 1-0 home loss at the end of January to Columbus that the players have responded to coach Denis Savard's message about pride in wearing the emblem on their jerseys.

Heading into March, the Hawks will have 17 games left going into the season finale April 6 at Detroit. All but two of those games are against Western Conference teams and 10 are with Central Division rivals -- Detroit (3),Columbus (3), St. Louis (2) and Nashville (2). With the battle for a playoff slot tight in the West, Savard knows it is vital to win almost 75% of those battles to get into the post-season.

At the end of December, the Hawks were virtually tied for the last playoff spot in the West, but injuries to Jason Williams, Martin Havlat, James Wisniewski, Rene Bourque, Brent Sopel and Jonathan Toews took its toll in January.

The record during that time speaks for itself and especially impacted the special teams. Williams was the #3 scorer went he went down November 28 against Tampa and had 5 of his 7 goals on the power play, which was in the top one-third of the NHL. The penalty killers were in the top quarter and #1 on the road before the rash of injuries.

With 11 of the last 17 games on the United Center ice, plus being bolstered by huge Hawk crowds, hopefully the team can continue to respond.

It's going to take 90+ points to make the playoffs. Looking back to the last three Hawk trips to the post-season, the team had 77 points at the end of February 1996 to wind up with 94. In 1997, the race was even tighter when the Hawks finished the month with 59 points and 81 overall for the schedule. The 2002 squad had 75 points heading into March with a final total of 96.

Savard knows that the path to achieve a playoff position will be difficult, but if the Hawks can fully regain the drive that carried them ahead before the rash of injuries, the Red will be Rising again in March!

Harvey Wittenberg served as the Blackhawks' Public Address Announcer from 1961 to 2001 and is the author of "Tales from the Chicago Blackhawks." Contact him at

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