It hasn’t been easy, but thanks to a triple-overtime win on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, (their third in three years) the Chicago Blackhawks hold a 3-1 series lead over the Nashville Predators in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
Coming in to the series, this outcome through four games wasn’t so certain. The Blackhawks did not look like a good team to end the regular season, finishing on a four-game slide, (though Nashville eclipsed that, losing their last six games coming in), and not looking good doing it.
Even long before the Blackhawks’ somber end from game #78 in, multiple Blackhawks’ players, from Patrick Sharp to Kris Versteeg, spoke about “flipping the switch”, shifting gears from the mediocre season they had, to a much-higher level, a playoff mode.
It has worked in the past. The Blackhawks have taken home the Stanley Cup twice in the past six years, and been to the Western Conference Final four times. Last season, the Blackhawks were one goal away from a third Finals appearance, and likely a third Stanley Cup, after finishing the regular season in the Central Division’s third seed.
Now the Blackhawks have a chance to advance to the second round tomorrow night, after taking three out of four against the second-seeded Predators.
Have the Blackhawks “flipped the switch”? Is this the team fans should get used to seeing, or is there even more coming?
Patrick Kane didn’t waste any time fitting back into the Blackhawks’ lineup in Game One. After an abysmal third period, Kane was on the ice for all three of the Blackhawks’ second period goals, recording two assists in the process. After missing the final quarter of the season, many thought the Blackhawks would have to bide their time while Kane shook off the rust. With their Game One victory taking double-overtime to decide a winner, Kane had no choice but to perform.
The Blackhawks’ depth is back up to speed, with the “PB&K” line getting in on the offense, while providing multiple oh-so-close scoring chances. Johnny Oduya’s six blocked shots shows a huge improvement in the Blackhawks’ defensive depth, while Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook’s over-time winning goals show that the blue-line has no problem chipping in offensively.
Best of all, if the past is any indication, the Blackhawks only get better and better as the Playoffs go on.
The ‘Hawks were down 2 games to 1 against these very same Predators in 2010, and were only 14 seconds away from facing elimination, until Patrick Kane scored short-handed, and Marian Hossa finished in overtime, in one of the best comebacks in Blackhawks’ history.
They never looked back that year, taking the Stanley Cup in a dominating performance against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final, and sweeping the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.
Though they dominated throughout the year in their 2013 campaign, the Blackhawks were no strangers to adversity, rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to win in Overtime of Game Seven, off the stick of Brent Seabrook.
The Blackhawks are looking like a Stanley Cup-contender more and more each day. Though the path there may not be as smooth as it has been through the first four games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, one is certain that the Blackhawks have the potential to get even better. For the other 15 teams vying for the Stanley Cup, that spells bad, bad news.
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