With how competitive the Western Conferense has been this season, the Chicago Blackawks are going to be counting on players like Viktor Stalberg to help propel them into the postseason.
Every night a win, loss and tie becomes important; whether or not teams are playing or on an off day. Teams are not allowed to get comfortable with their position in the standings as they are constantly in motion.
This is certainly true for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who are stuck in the middle of the race for a spot in the West. Over the Hawks last 10 games they are 6-2-2, which for most would be considered a good run.
But within the seven-team race the Blackhawks record in the last 10 is tied for the second worst record in that span. Phoenix and Nashville have surged in that time frame and are quickly showing that they are not going anywhere.
Los Angeles and Anaheim are also playing good hockey and could be the two teams that no one should want to play in the first round. With two electric goalies in Jonathan Quick and Jonas Hiller, both the Kings and Ducks are poised to make a strong push for the playoffs.
Simply put, the Blackhawks will need to finish strong regardless of what these other teams do in this jumbled mess of a conference.
Who needs to step up most in these finals games?
It's a given that players like Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane need to be at the top of their games from here on out, but others need to pick up the slack as well.
Third and fourth line players need to get it going in this final games. In his first full season of action, Jake Dowell has proven to be a hard-working, dependable player.
Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun Times wrote about Dowell moving from center to winger. It could be a move that perhaps open things up for the 26-year-old, who has scored six goals on the season.
“I would have liked to have been a bit more productive offensively,” Dowell said. “But that’s not what I was there to do. I was there to shut down other teams’ lines and not get scored on."
Other players like Viktor Stalberg will have to make a huge impact as well. With the injury to All-Star MVP Patrick Sharp, Stalberg's importance is magnified enormously. Playing with two players in Kane and Toews who are currently both ranked in the top 20 in the league in points should help any player, and Stalberg must capitalize on this chance.
So far Stalberg has been up to task, but it will truly be needed for the last weekend of the season with those pivotal games against the Hawks hated foes: The Detoroit Red Wings.