For the Chicago Blackhawks, the success of the regular season has faded to what they hope will be a footnote of a championship season. Whether that happens or not will depend on how they handle the pressure of being the overwhelming favorite to represent the Western Conference in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Blackhawks started the season by winning a record setting 24 games without losing in regulation, and they finished the regular season with the best record in the NHL. While this is all well and good, it also raises the expectations as they enter the NHL playoffs.
Chicago gets the Minnesota Wild in the first round. The Blackhawks were pushed to overtime in the first game of this series, and there is nothing to suggest that the eighth seed will go away quietly. The Wild are even getting better odds to win the Stanley Cup than the Detroit Red Wings, who enter the playoffs as the seventh seed (for a complete breakdown of each NHL Playoff team’s odds at winning the Cup click HERE).
The regular season was a thing of beauty for the Blackhawks, but now the top seed, best record, historic streak and every other accolade, or award, can be felt bearing down on their necks. All of the success stands as a constant reminder of what they need to do to make this season complete.
When it is all said and done, if the Blackhawks fail to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, the accomplishments of the regular season will seem much less impressive. On the other hand, if they were to win it all, then the season goes down as one of the greatest of all time. At least until the focus goes back to the fact that the season only lasted 48 games because of the lockout that pushed back opening day by several months. Then the talk of an asterisk starts up, but now we are getting into predictions (if you want to read about predictions, you should click HERE).
Can the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup? Yes, of course they can. They have two goalies playing at an extremely high level. They have star power in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews , and that is just the tip of the iceberg. They play tough hockey regardless of who is on the ice, and they make good things happen by putting the puck in front of the net.
Rookie sensation Brandon Saad has exceeded all expectations, and now he holds down the left wing on the same line as Toews (center) and Hossa (right). This says more about the kid’s talent and confidence than the stat sheet ever could.
This is a team built to win. The only team that will stop them from coming out of the West is themselves. They may face a challenge in their NHL Eastern Conference opponent, but regardless of whom they play, the Blackhawks will likely be considered the favorite.
The 2013 NHL Stanley Cup is waiting for the Blackhawks to come pass it around in victory. This has been Chicago’s year from the start. Now all they have to do is finish it.