After 82 games and a long and especially grueling winter, it's time for the best postseason tournament in professional sports.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs provide incredible drama year in and year out, and we here in Chicago have of course had a front row seat over the last few years.
Full disclosure, I'm not a hockey "expert". I've always enjoyed the game, but I can't claim to be a life-long Hawks fan. I'm a bandwagoner just like you are...though now I'm hooked.
Hockey by nature is a random game. One bounce of the puck can change a game and change a series. I think that's a big factor in what makes the NHL postseason so unique. Literally anything can happen, and it often does. Players play with undisclosed injuries that would keep other athletes far away from the field. The intensity goes up about five notches. Fewer penalties are called, and the best team doesn't always win. Three overtime games are the norm (yes, we all love shin pads), fighting stops, and goalies become the stars.
Here are some stats I found interesting from John Zoni at ESPN.com...
- The Blackhawks scored the most goals this season, but the league's highest scoring team hasn't won the Cup since the Penguins did it in 1992 (Of course they beat the Blackhawks in that series)
- Since the 02-03 season, the defending Cup champion has lost in the first round six times, including the Blackhawks in 2011
- The Bruins won this year's President's Trophy for accumulating the most points as a team, but the President's Trophy winner has only won it all eight times since they began the award in 1985-1986. The Blackhawks are one of those eight, having done it last season.
- The Montreal Canadiens are the only team from Canada in this year's playoffs. It's the first time since 1973 that only one Canadian team got in. That year, Les Habitants were that one team, and they took home the Cup.
- The Canadiens are also the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, beating the Kings in the 1993 Cup Final.
- Finally, and perhaps most impressively, the Detroit Red Wings are in the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season. It's the longest streak of its kind in professional sports
So, can the Blackhawks win it all? Well, they get Kane and Toews back of course, so that will certainly help. I do like their first round matchup, as I think they're getting the Blues at the right time. The Western Conference is stacked, and then you would have to get by Boston or Pittsburgh perhaps. We've said all season, and especially lately, that the Hawks know how to flip the switch when the lights come on. Well boys, the lights are on and they aren't turning off until Gary Bettman is on the ice.
It takes 16 wins to claim Lord Stanley's Cup. Let the madness begin.
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