The Chicago Blackhawks clinched a playoff spot last week. The Hawks sit comfortably in first place in the central at the time of this writing with 102 points, 8 points ahead of the Minnesota Wild and 2 points behind the Washington Capitals for the best record, with the Pittsburgh Penguins sitting also at 102 points. With 8 games remaining, the Blackhawks play 7 of those against teams with winning records. 6 of the rest of the games will also be on the road.
This is the 9th year in a row the Blackhawks have qualified for the playoffs. The Blackhawks have made the playoffs every year since 2008-2009 including 3 Cup Championships in the last 6 years. As we gear up for playoff hockey, let’s take a look back at the last 9 years.
A LOOK BACK
After missing the playoffs in 2007-2008, the Chicago Blackhawks made sure they were going to make the playoffs. With the emergence of newly elected Captain, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Brent Seabrook, the Blackhawks cruised to 46 wins en route to their first playoff berth since 2002. The Hawks finished fourth in the conference and faced the Calgary Flames in the first round. The Hawks would go on to win the series 4-2 and advance to the Conference semifinals to face the Vancouver Canucks. Against the Vancouver Canucks, the Chicago Blackhawks also won that series 4-2 leading the Blackhawks to advance to face the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals.
The Blackhawks faced their arch rivals in a matchup that would be much closer than the final would show. Taking 3 out of the 5 games to OT, the Blackhawks lost the series 4-1. The series would leave a lasting impression on the young kids, who vowed revenge.
The Chicago Blackhawks would find themselves back in the playoffs in 2009 after finishing second in the western conference with 112 points. The Hawks would face the Nashville Predators in the first round in a first-time playoff matchup for the two franchises. The Hawks would go on to win the series 4-2 with Marian Hossa putting on some fireworks in game 6. In the Western Conference Semifinals, the Blackhawks faced the Vancouver Canucks, which was starting to become a pretty decent rivalry. The Canucks would again fall short as they had in 2008-2009, losing to the Hawks 4-2. The Hawks would advance to the Western Conference Finals to play the first place San Jose Sharks. In the only sweep of the entire series, the Blackhawks shut down the Sharks 4-0 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992 to face the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Blackhawks would defeat the Flyers 4-2 winning off a goal from Patrick Kane in overtime to win the Stanley Cup. It would be the first time that a team would win the Stanley Cup in overtime since the New Jersey Devils did it in 2000. Jonathan Toews would go on to win the Conn Smythe trophy.
The Chicago Blackhawks coming off their 4th Stanley Cup Championship would start off 2010 a little slow. Having massive turnover during the offseason due to cap restrictions didn’t help them either. The Blackhawks would squeak into the playoffs as the 8th seed with 97 points. The Hawks would face the Vancouver Canucks for the 3rd time in a row in the playoffs with the Canucks finally getting their revenge on Chicago. After running off 3 in a row, the Canucks had Chicago against the ropes, but the Blackhawks would win 3 straight tying the series at 3 games each. In overtime the Canucks would capitalize on a defensive mistake, allowing a goal to be scored, with the Canucks advancing to the next round and sending the defending Cup champions home early.
The Blackhawks finished 6th in the conference earning them a playoff berth against the Phoenix Coyotes. Even though the Hawks would score the tying goal with less than 30 seconds left in the first 2 games it still would end poorly for the Hawks again faltering early in the playoffs losing to the Coyotes 4-2. It was only the second playoff series in NHL history where the first 5 games went into OT.
After a lockout would shorten the 2012-2013 season dramatically, the Blackhawks would still find themselves as Presidents Trophy winners. The Hawks would face the Wild in the first round of the playoffs in what would start a huge playoff rivalry with the Wild. The Blackhawks would handle the series with ease winning 4 games to 1. The Hawks would move on to face the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals. After being down 3-1, the Hawks would win the next 3 straight to win the series 4-3 to advance to the Conference Finals to face the Los Angeles Kings. The Hawks would go on to win that series 4-1 to head to the Stanley Cup Finals to face the Boston Bruins.
The Blackhawks would go on to win the Stanley Cup Finals in a hectic 6 game series that saw game one go to 3 overtimes, and game 6 change hands in the last 17 seconds of the game. While the Bruins had a 2-1 lead in game 6 the Hawks pulled Goalie Corey Crawford for an extra attacker allowing the Blackhawks to score the tying goal. 17 seconds later, Dave Bolland scored the eventual game winner giving the Blackhawks their 5th Stanley Cup Championship. Patrick Kane would win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
The Chicago Blackhawks, looking again to continue their domination of the Western Conference would again clinch a playoff spot this time to finish 3rd in the central earning them a playoff berth against their division rivals, the St Louis Blues. After the Blues won the first 2 games at home, the Blackhawks would “wake up” running off the next 4 games en route to a 4-2 Series victory.
In the Western Conference Semifinals, the Hawks found themselves once again facing the Minnesota Wild. Once again, the Wild found themselves coming up short as the Hawks would win the series 4-2. The Hawks would face the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings made the trip for the 3rd consecutive year in a row, while the Blackhawks had made the trip 4 times since 2009. The Kings would get their revenge on the Hawks from the 2013 finals with a game 7 series victory as the Kings would beat the Hawks 4-3 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Chicago Blackhawks would finish again with the 3rd best record in the Central Division. The Hawks would earn a playoff berth against the Nashville Predators and go on to win the series 4-2. As the Hawks played goalie roulette between Crawford and Darling, the Preds couldn’t do enough to win and the Hawks advanced. Chicago would move on to face Minnesota in the second round. The Wild wouldn’t put up much of a fight, as the Hawks would sweep them to move on to the Western Conference Finals. Chicago made their 3rd straight Conference Finals appearance facing the Anaheim Ducks for a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. In what would be considered one of the best series’ in recent years by many critics, the Blackhawks would go on to win the series 4-3 to move on to the Finals.
The Tampa Bay Lightning would face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Championship Series. The Blackhawks would make their 3rd Cup finals in 6 years while the Lightning would make their second appearance after beating Calgary in 2004. The Blackhawks would go on to beat the Lightning 4-2, with Duncan Keith taking home the MVP.
The Chicago Blackhawks last year clinched a playoff berth against the St Louis Blues. The Blues after jumping out to a 3-1 series lead would falter as the Hawks would come storming back. A goal by Troy Brouwer in game 7 would help the Blues knock the Hawks out of the playoffs and advance to the next round. All games except for game 6 were decided by 1 goal.
If the Blackhawks want to be successful in the playoffs, they are going to need to get some production from their 3rd and 4th string lines. Way too often in the playoffs, this is where the difference is. Corey Crawford is also going to need to start playing just a little bit better. After having his appendix surgery, he hasn’t been the same giving up an average of 3.2 goals per game since he came back. The Blackhawks can find success this year but they will need some of their top stars to keep performing the way that they have been. Without being too cliche, if the Blackhawks keep playing the way that they have been nothing will keep them from their 4th Cup in 7 years.
Feature Image Credit: Fansided