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Blackhawks Mon Apr 29 2013

Hawks To Face Minnesota After Wild Season

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png Well, here we go again. It only seems a mere 22 years ago that the Hawks won the Presidents Trophy and skated into the first round of the playoffs against Minnesota - only to skate out as first-round losers. Here's hoping this outcome is a different one.

The Hawks, who set all kinds of records this season, including a final record of 36-7-5 - 77 points, will match up against the Wild, a team which they went 2-0-1 against, and beat 1-0 just 20 days ago, behind a Ray Emery shutout.

Emery was stingier than a member of the temperance movement at the Billy Goat Tavern that night, by stopping every shot sent his way (20). And surely it was that performance, as well as many others from Emery this season, that made it easy for the NHL committee to award he and Corey Crawford their first ever William M. Jennings Trophy - an award given out for allowing the fewest goals in a season.

Crawford allowed 57 and Emery 36, while both had save percentages of .926 and .922, respectively. Not to mention, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had 23 goals, while Kane (55) came within five points of becoming the first ever American-born athlete to capture the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring (Martin St. Louis - 60).

Numbers like that are enough to make any fan sleep safely and soundly at night, all tucked into their Blackhawks sleep sack, while having visions of another Cup ceremony roll along Washington Street. But the second season starts tomorrow night at the UC, and you can bet the Wild (26-19-3 - 55 points) will look to resurrect the ghosts of Brian Bellows, Basil McRae and Shane Churla.

Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom comes in with a 24-15-3 record and a 2.48 GAA. Meanwhile, Zach Parise's 18 goals and 20 assists, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle make for a talented first line for head coach Mike Yeo. Dany Heatley will miss the playoffs for shoulder surgery and will not be missed with his antics on the ice.

The Hawks also find themselves entering the playoffs with a little rest on their side, which is strange to comprehend. Yes, the 48-game schedule was brutal (I sometimes was tired watching them skate two out of three nights), but the benefit of Saturday night's insignificant game against the Blues allowed for the big hitters to stay home and relax. Not to mention Patrick Sharp, Emery and Dave Bolland had extra time to nurse their injuries.

All the previous talk about how the streak means nothing unless the Hawks can win it all, can finally begin its vindication tomorrow night. The intense focus with which the Hawks displayed will need to continue, no matter the opponent. The number-one overall seed and Presidents' Trophy is a great luxury, but history isn't on the Hawks' side for regular-season glory.

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