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Analysis

2020 playoffs may be the Blackhawks bounce-back year

Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Blackhawks were stopped dead in their tracks in the 2017 playoffs. This year they look to bounce back and eventually avenge that tough loss.

As many know the Chicago Blackhawks have been gifted a playoff appearance in this year’s expanded postseason field, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As playoff hockey is almost upon us, the Blackhawks are looking for a better showing than their last playoff appearance.

The Blackhawks had won the head to head matchup versus the Edmonton Oilers, even though they are the lowest seed in the playoffs this season. This Blackhawks team has the chance to fully embrace the underdog role, contrary to 2017, where they had every advantage possible and only disappointed themselves, the NHL, and most of all the fanbase.

The Blackhawks were the third-best team in the NHL during the 2016-17 season. They won 50 games and had 109 total points. That regular-season was their best since the 2010 Stanley Cup run. As many know that season ended in them winning their third championship since the decade started.

Stars such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith all had solid seasons. Newcomer Artemi Panarin was also following up on his Calder Trophy-winning rookie campaign with a solid second season.

This team fired on all cylinders during the 2017 season. Solid defense, great offense, and two elite goalies made 2017 a strong contender to be the franchise’s fourth title of the decade.

The Blackhawks went into the playoffs on a losing streak, but two were in overtime and none of those games showed major concerns for the one seed. Their opponents in the first round were the Nashville Predators. The Predators were a good team, having made the playoffs with a comfortable seven-point lead over the Winnipeg Jets.

The matchup seemed to favor Chicago, as they not only were the better team during the regular season but also beat the Predators in four out of the five games the teams played versus one another. The Blackhawks also outscored Nashville 20 to 13 in those contests.

Nashville had a not so secret, secret weapon though, one who would alter the course of Blackhawks history. That player was Pekka Rinne, possibly the best goalie in NHL history.

Chicago faced the Predators on their home ice in game one and got 29 shots off on Rinne. Including six from Kane and four from Marian Hossa. Rinne stopped every single one of the Blackhawks shots. A Viktor Arvidsson goal in the first period was the decider as the Predators took game one.

Game two was a routing of the Blackhawks, with the Predators scoring five goals on Corey Crawford and Rinne letting up zero goals yet again. This made game three in Nashville a do or die for the third-best team in the NHL.

In Game three, Chicago showed up early, scoring the first two goals, leading 2-0 after two periods. But, two goals in the third period by Nashville sent the game to overtime. Kevin Fiala’s overtime goal gave them a 3-0 series lead.

Game four was a 4-1 loss for the Blackhawks and completed the sweep for the Predators.

To Pekka Rinne’s credit, he played unreal, letting up only three total goals while also saving 97.6% of shots on goal. Nashville would go on to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, eventually losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In 2017 the Blackhawks had possibly their most interesting season in six seasons, and it ended before anyone could even wonder as to what caused this collapse. Making that 2017 season possibly their most disappointing campaign ever.

Flashforward three seasons and the Blackhawks have not been to the playoffs since that series versus the Predators. That is until this year.

Instead of being the confident successful team that ends up getting upset, they have the rare opportunity to be the huge underdogs who upset a team that has a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup.

"The key to the Blackhawks beating the Oilers is Duncan Keith"

Like the 2017 Predators an early win for Chicago could propel them in the long playoff run, and even a chance to win the Stanley Cup. All of which will be shown soon as the Blackhawks face off on August 1st versus the Edmonton Oilers.

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