Khabibulin, Blackhawks blank Red Wings

CHICAGO (AP) — 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 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.

READ ALSO:  VIDEO: Kostuch knows too well the impact of hitting in minor hockey

“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.”