'Hawks prep for playoffs with shutout of Wings
Nikolai Khabibulin looked like a playoff-ready goaltender, even if the game had little meaning.
Khabibulin had 37 saves Sunday to get his 41st career shutout as the Chicago Blackhawks tuned up for their first postseason appearance in seven years by beating the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 in the regular-season finale.
"It's definitely nice to finish on a high note. The game didn't mean much for either team, but you want to have good habits going into the playoffs," Khabibulin said.
"For a goalie, I think anytime you get a shutout it's good. Having said that, you know tomorrow is another day and the regular season doesn't matter anymore."
Chicago's victory was its second in 24 hours against the Red Wings, coming on the heels of Saturday's 4-2 win at Detroit. The Blackhawks won their final two meetings against their longtime rival after going 0-2-2 in the first four, including a loss in the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day.
The Blackhawks finished the season with a rush, going 6-0-1 in their final seven games. They had already clinched the fourth seed in the Western Conference and will open the playoffs this week at home against Calgary. Chicago won all four meetings with the Flames this season.
"We're happy we got home ice. Everybody looks at the success we had against them this year, but that obviously means nothing at this point," Chicago's Jonathan Toews said of the Flames.
"It's a new season, a new beginning. We're happy to be here at home. We got a lot of momentum going and we got to build off that. And obviously don't let off the gas pedal for a second."
The defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings had already locked down the No. 2 spot in the West and will play Columbus or Anaheim in the first round. The Red Wings finished the season 3-6-1 in the final 10 games, including the two losses to the Blackhawks.
"It's good we got this over with and no one got hurt in these last two games," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.
"You always like to go into the playoffs rolling. We're not going into the playoffs rolling. We get a day off tomorrow and get prepared. It's not like we haven't been through it before. We understand what it takes and how hard it is going to be."
Andrew Ladd and Toews scored first-period goal for Chicago and Dave Bolland converted on the power play in the third. Khabibulin's shutout was his third this season.
"He must have five, six, seven Grade A chances. He was outstanding," Babcock of said Khabibulin.
Ladd's 15th goal of the season almost eight minutes in gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead. Dustin Byfuglien circled with the puck, made a nice pass to Brent Seabrook, who found Ladd wide open on the other side of the net where he easily beat Chris Osgood.
Later in the opening period, Toews appeared to lose the puck as he approached the left side of the net, cut through the crease and then managed to reach back and jam it under Osgood for his 34th goal and a 2-0 lead.
With Detroit on a power play, Chicago's Colin Fraser shook loose on a short-handed breakaway but Osgood was able to snuff the attempt. Moments later the Red Wings had a two-man advantage, but Detroit couldn't score against Khabibulin, who had 17 first-period saves.
"I was seeing the puck pretty well. I got lucky a couple of times. That's usually how you get shutouts," Khabibulin said.
Khabibulin stopped a short-handed breakaway by Johan Franzen early in the final period, and Bolland scored five minutes in with a slappper from between the circles.
Now it's time for the playoffs, a place where the Blackhawks have been strangers most of the last decade.
"We played some playoff-type hockey at the end of the season. We prepared ourselves," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "They (the Flames) will be ready. They're a dangerous team."
Scratches included Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper and Marian Hossa of the Red Wings and Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp of Chicago. ... The Blackhawks reassigned C Jacob Dowell to Rockford of the AHL.