One Minute Remaining: Playoff Formula = Momentum + Health
Now that the "real" season for the survivors is underway, the question for Blackhawks fans is: What's it going to take to repeat?
Since the hard salary cap went into effect in 2005, no one has repeated; Detroit was the last team to accomplish that feat, winning back to back in 1997 and 1998.
In 2013, the Blackhawks were only the second team since 2007-08 to finish with the most regular-season points before going on to win the Cup. When Chicago turned the trick in 2009-10, they were second in the Western Conference and third overall.
In contrast, Los Angeles became the lowest seed (ranked eighth in the West and 13th in points) to capture the Cup in 2011-12 behind the hot goaltending of Jonathan Quick. Outside of the 1938 Blackhawks, who became the only NHL team to post a losing regular-season record but still win the Cup, the Kings' feat will probably stand for a while.
Parity was evident coming off the Olympic break in February, when there were 25 teams within four points of a playoff berth. This season saw 10 teams achieve 100 points or more, and if Minnesota had won its finale, it would have tied an NHL record with 11 squads hitting the century mark—which occurred in 2006-07 and 2009-10.
Being the defending champs, the Blackhawks played all year with a target on their backs, as opponents used their matchups as a measuring stick for success.
With an experienced core, Chicago is eager to drink from the Cup again, but the road will be even more difficult than the one they experienced during regular season. The team needs to build momentum, stay healthy, continue to have solid goaltending from Corey Crawford—last year's hero in net—and that important intangible known as "a little bit of luck!"