Apr 14, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) blocks a shot made by Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) during the third period at the Scottrade Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Playoff Push: The Top Three Teams The Blackhawks Want To Avoid In The First Round

Mar 14, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) knocks the puck away from Columbus Blue Jackets center Derick Brassard (16) at Nationwide Arena. The Blackhawks won 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

In 2010 the Blackhawks had the 2nd best record in the Western Conference, but they were forced to play the one team in the Western Conference they really didn’t want to see in the Nashville Predators.  Nashville played the Hawks tough throughout the first round and it took an incredible effort by Patrick Kane in the final seconds of Game 5 to force overtime and when Marian Hossa scored the overtime winner past Pekka Rinne  the tide finally turned for the Hawks. Yes, they survived the first round and went on to win the Stanley Cup, but playing the Predators was the last team the Hawks wanted to face in the first round.

This season the Hawks are well on their way for a #1 seed with a #2 seed at worst.  The Hawks will be facing teams that had to fight tooth and nail to make it into the playoffs. The teams that are in the mix for playing the Hawks are the St Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes, and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Of those teams here are the top three I don’t want to see the Hawks play in the the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets- This team has turned the corner and has played pretty well the last part of the season and if they qualify for the playoffs could be a very stiff test for the team that gets to play against them.  Two reasons that I want the Hawks to avoid them is the history of the teams in the past two season.  The Hawks are 11-0 against the Blue Jackets.  You might say are you crazy that’s a team you want to play against, but one thing about numbers and streaks is they all flip or end after awhile. The second reason the Hawks would want to avoid the Columbus franchise in the playoffs is Sergei Bobrovsky.  Bobrovsky could be the Vezina trophy winner and has been playing spectacular in net for the Blue Jackets.  The worst opponent to play in the first round of any playoff series is the team with the hot goalie. Bobrovsky has 4 shutouts and a 2.01 GAA and .932 save percentage.  The team might not be as talented as the Hawks but a young team with a hot goalie can build more confidence on a game by game basis with any win they get in the playoffs especially against a team with more talent.

Apr 12, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) scores a goal against Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the third period at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in the shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

2. Detroit Red Wings- Yes the Hawks have beaten them seven straight times but only one of the four games this year was decided without a overtime. Mike Babcock knows how to beat the Hawks he just doesn’t have the horses lately.  One main reason for not wanting to face the Red Wings is Jimmy Howard.  Yes, the Hawks have solved him for most of this season, but he’s starting to get into playoff mode (shutout Nashville Sunday night) which could be extremely dangerous for the Hawks.  The other thing that is concerning about playing the Red Wings is history, the last time the Hawks won a playoff series against the men from Motown was 1992 when Jeremy Roenick was the star of the show.  History can be rewritten but going against your rival in the first round when they had to fight just to get in is a first round is a matchup the Hawks would like to avoid.

1. St Louis Blues- This is probably the most unlikely match-up unless the Blues go into a meltdown and crash and burn to face the Hawks but it’s still possible. The Blues are the current 6th seed but only 1 point from the 8th seed.  Brian Elliott has been outstanding since Jaroslav Halak went down with a groin injury. Though good goal-tending is a concern, the reason to avoid the Blues in the first or any round would be the health of the team.  The Blues would be head hunting trying to get Hawks stars off the ice to equalize the talent level to their level.  I don’t believe that they could bring that type of intensity to a 7 game series and the Hawks would prevail, but at what cost and how many injuries would pile up if these two teams collided in the first round and how would this hurt the Hawks chances for the Cup?

Don’t get me wrong I believe the Hawks would be able to beat these teams in the first round, but hockey can be decided by a bounce or fluke goal so these are the teams even though beatable would be the teams to hopefully avoid in the first round.

What do you think? Which teams do you think the Hawks should avoid in the first round?

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