#2: New Playoff Format Is Their Friend
The Blackhawks haven’t had many things in their favor it seems, but the new playoff format that came along with re-alignment is one of them. It is all but set in stone that the Blackhawks will face off against the Colorado Avalanche in the first round, although home-ice advantage is still up in the air. It won’t be easy, but many expect the Avalanche to fold due to the pressure of the playoffs on players such as Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson, and Gabriel Landeskog, who have a combined 0 games of NHL playoff experience between them. After that, it will be on to a likely date with the St. Louis Blues, who have had their struggles in the Conference Semi-Final round in the past two years, and will be coming off what should be a relatively easy series against a Wild Card team. If the Blackhawks can pull off a win against the Blues, they will be half-way to hoisting that trophy again, with their foot planted on the gas pedal.
#1: Get The Losses Out Of The Way
Blackhawks’ coach Joel Quenneville even agrees: hitting a rough patch before the playoffs isn’t always such a bad thing in the long run. The Blackhawks have lost three games in a row for the first time all season, and still have some tough teams ahead, such as the St. Louis Blues. If the Blackhawks can get out of their sudden funk before the end of the regular season, and head into the playoffs with a few wins under their belt, this rough patch will only serve as a motivator, and have no effect on their performance down the road. When the Blackhawks find ways to win without Patrick Kane (and likely Jonathan Toews down the stretch) it will be a huge boost for the character of the teams’ depth players.
Watch out, NHL fans: the Blackhawks will be back at the dance, and they don’t want anyone walking out with their trophy. No matter the result, the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs are shaping up to be another instant classic.
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