#3 – Winnipeg Jets –
The Jets currently are holding on to the last wildcard spot in the Western Conference, which makes the chances of the Blackhawks running into them in the first round highly unlikely, but then again, who knows what may happen in the last month of the regular season. Even though the Blackhawks recently bested the Jets in a thrilling come from behind victory, frankly, I’m glad the Hawks’ chances of running into them in the first round are low.
The Jets are a physical team with a decent amount of speed to boot, and not having made the playoffs since this franchise moved from Atlanta gives this squad something to prove in the post season. All of this adds up to a deceptively difficult first round match-up, so as it is, I’m perfectly happy with the Jets taking a piece out of the Anaheim Ducks in the opening tilt.
#2 – Minnesota Wild –
This surging squad is sitting in the first wildcard slot and is riding the momentum of a five-game winning streak at the absolute best time. We all know how critical it is for teams to pick up a head of steam going into the post season, and coupled with the trials and tribulations this squad has had to overcome, the Wild should be on everyone’s radar. Like the Jets, the Wild likely won’t be seeing the Hawks in the first round; unless the Hawks grab first place in the Central Division, which is certainly possible given the recent play of the division’s top three teams. However, while this potential match-up may be very tantalizing to Hawks fans, the Wild are far from a team to take lightly.
While the Blackhawks have beaten the Wild two years in a row in the post season, the Wild have also made the playoffs two years in a row (and to the second round last year), so don’t think they haven’t learned from their mistakes. On the flip side however, the Hawks have an equally intimate knowledge of the Wild, and have a proven track record against them in the post season, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Still, if the Wild keep their momentum rolling, at the very least they’ll be a hell of a runaway train for their first round opponent to slow down.
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