Over the past six years, no team in the National Hockey League has amassed a playoff pedigree like the Chicago Blackhawks. In six straight appearances, the Blackhawks have made it to the Western Conference Final four times, and gave taken home the Stanley Cup twice.
The Blackhawks are set to make their seventh straight appearance in 2015, though nothing is certain. They currently hold the final Central Division seed, but have the opportunity to go either way: win the Central Division, or fall into a Wild Card seed, as this year’s playoff race is one of the closest in recent memory.
However, when the show gets underway on April 15th, the Blackhawks will be in there, in all likelihood. And, in usual Blackhawks’ fashion, punching their ticket to the Playoffs is the most their fans have to worry about: once they are in, they usually turn it on, and find themselves as one of the last teams standing.
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This year might be a different story.
There are plenty of story-lines as the regular season nears it’s end, and most of them are not positive for the Blackhawks. Despite a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games, there are some things that Blackhawks fans should take note of as the Playoffs get underway:
#3: Bad, Bad Matchups
The Western Conference playoff race is tight. Though, only 9 or 10 teams are still in the running, realistically, only 13 points separate the Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks from the Winnipeg Jets, who cling to the final Wild Card seed.
Behind them, are the Los Angeles Kings; the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and the team that ended Chicago’s season last spring with an over-time goal. As it stands, the Kings are four points behind the Jets, with a game in hand.
Factor in the Calgary Flames, who are in the Pacific Division’s final playoff spot, and suddenly, the Blackhawks’ “best-case scenario”, winning the Central Division (something that is entirely possible with the Blackhawks holding games in hand, and with two match-ups against the St. Louis Blues looming in April), starts to seem like the team’s worst outcome. The Flames have handed Chicago a loss this season, while the Jets have done it three out of four times. Add in the Kings, who will certainly bring a ton of resistance to a potential series, and the first round looks like it might be the hardest for the Blackhawks.
The good news, however, is things seem to get easier from there on in; with the possibility of playing the depth-lacking Minnesota Wild, or the Blues next round.
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