One Minute Remaining: Series Win Could Be Just The Beginning
With their victory over Calgary, the Blackhawks captured their first playoff series victory in 13 years. Coincidentally, the Hawks’ last series victory in 1996 was acheived by sweeping the same Flames team they just beat in six games.
It has been 14 years since the Hawks last won two playoff series. History will repeat itself again if the Hawks match the feat this year; Chicago swept Vancouver in 1995 to move on to the conference finals.
On paper, both teams match up very evenly for this series:
The Hawks had one 30-goal scorer in the regular season in captain Jonathan Toews. The Canucks had only one as well: Daniel Sedin.
On special teams, the Hawks converted 19.3 percent of their power play opportunities - good for 12th in the league - compared to the Canucks 18.8 percent, an 18th-place finish. While a man down, Vancouver killed 81.4 of their penalties, while Chicago killed 80.6 percent.
The Hawks boasted the 8th-best home record (24-9-8) and 5th-best on the road (22-15-4) while the Canucks were 13th-best on home ice (24-12-5) and 8th on the road (21-15-5).
Chicago scored 264 goals and allowed 216 and Vancouver tallied 246 and allowed 220.
The key to winning this best-of-seven series may be intangible: Vancouver will enjoy a home-ice advantage, and the Hawks will have to win on the road and defend their own home ice to move on. Never underestimate the game-changing potential of a home crowd.
Can this young band of Blackhawks continue to surprise? Well, so far the 13-year drought is history and the seven-year playoff itch has been scratched. Can we climb to the heights we last reached 14 years ago in the first season at the United Center?
If the special teams continue to click and Nikolai Khabibulin remains hot, it could be time for the next step up!