As of late, it seems when misfortune rains, it pours on our beloved Chicago Blackhawks. However, amidst all the bad juju that’s befallen our boys in red, white and black (I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail at this point, and I’d prefer not to), it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, the ’Hawks are still in the playoffs, and that’s more than a lot of NHL franchises can say.
Regular-season woes aside, we all know how quickly things can change in the playoffs. While the postseason landscape still isn’t set, the possible matchups the Blackhawks may face are becoming all the more clear.
That being said, let’s weigh the best and worst potential opponents the ’Hawks may face in each round of the playoffs leading up to the Stanley Cup Final. Obviously there is a lot of presumption involved here, but luck favors the prepared.
Worst Case Scenario: Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks or Dallas Stars
If the Hawks continue their struggles for their remaining games and fall to one of the wild-card slots in the Western Conference, they would face one of the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks or Los Angeles Kings (they may also face Dallas while not falling to the wild card if the St. Louis Blues are able to leapfrog into first in the Central Division).
Facing the Stars, Kings or Ducks in opening tilt of the postseason will likely mean a first-round exit for the Blackhawks. The Stars have roughly had their way with the ’Hawks this year, the Kings are far better rested than the ’Hawks after missing the playoffs last year and the Ducks are extremely potent at the onset of the postseason because their usual physical style of gameplay is unfettered by fatigue at this point. Not to mention, given the intensity of the first round of the postseason and the fact that all three of these teams are looking to prove themselves against the ’Hawks, this particular triumvirate of potential opening-round opponents needs to be avoided by the Blackhawks at all costs.
Best Case Scenario: St Louis Blues
Historically, I’ve contended that drawing the Blues in the first round of the playoffs this year would be a very bad thing. Yes, the ’Hawks have beaten the Blues in the opening round of the playoffs before, but St. Louis took a big chunk out of the Blackhawks in the 2014 postseason, and it arguably effected their postseason longevity.
However, given the other opponents the ’Hawks could potentially square-off against at the start of the playoffs, the Blues are the most attractive option, in a kind of rock-and-a-hard-place sort of way, mainly because the Blues have such a large monkey on their back when it comes to the postseason that their opponent has a big psychological edge. Not to mention, the ’Hawks spotted the Blues two games in the 2014 playoffs and still came out as the series winner. In other words, the ’Hawks only need to get a few things going their way during the series to make the Blues start questioning themselves, and that may be all that’s needed to get through St. Louis.
Next: Western Conference Semifinal Matchups