After wrapping up the Minnesota Wild in a 5-1 victory last night, the Chicago Blackhawks await their second round opponents, and the NHL playoffs are stacking up for a notably dramatic Stanley Cup tournament.
The Blackhawks took the quarterfinals round of the playoffs in five games, and now will play either the San Jose Sharks or the Detroit Red Wings. With the Vancouver Canucks getting swept by the Sharks, San Jose and Detroit stand as the two biggest rivals of the Hawks remaining in the playoffs.
If the Wings are able to overcome the 3-2 deficit they face against the Anaheim Ducks, it will be a second round swansong bout between Chicago and Detroit. One of the greatest NHL rivalries will not be the same next year, as the two will not share a division after the conclusion of this 2013 season. One final hurrah in the playoffs would be a fitting homage to the end of this rivalry.
Assuming Anaheim holds on and wins the opening round against Detroit, the Blackhawks will face the 2010 championship rivals, and Niemi-burglarizing, San Jose Sharks. Aside from the Nashville Predators and Canucks, the Sharks have been one of the Hawks best new rivals over the past few seasons. A Crawford-Niemi series would certainly be entertaining, and the Sharks have plenty of talent to throw at the Hawks.
Of course, there is also the hated Raffi Torres, most recently infamous for his assault on Hossa during last year's playoff series against Phoenix. Torres now looms out there in the shark tank. His presence would certainly be an interesting storyline, and could easily impact the overall play of the series.
Detroit or San Jose. Either way, the Hawks will have a second round matchup against a primary rival, with a number of extraneous details adding to the already dramatic setting of the NHL playoffs.
We are in for a ride.
Things are shaping up quite nicely in the Eastern Conference as well.
The seventh seed Ottowa Senators are the only team to advance thus far, but both Pittsburgh and Boston can win their respective series the next time out. Meanwhile, the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals are knotted-up at two wins a piece. Aside from Ottowa's "upset" over the second-seeded Montreal Canadians, the Eastern Conference's top teams appear ready to advance to round two. Even if the three seed Capitals fall to the Rangers, that would mean the advance of another Original Six team, which is never a bad thing.
While attempting not to look too far ahead, it appears that no matter what plays out, every potential matchup will be full of outside drama and excellent talent. With Crawford looking back in his early season dominant form, and the skaters talking about improving and playing better, more focused hockey, the Blackhawks look and sound ready for a deep run.
Thankfully the Minnesota Wild are behind us. Looking at the potential matchups makes it hard not to be very excited about the excellent playoff hockey on the horizon. Waiting till Tuesday or Wednesday for the start of round two seems so long, but it shall be glorious once it arrives.
Four wins down, 12 to go. Buckle up Hawks fans.