While the Avalanche could still possibly catch St. Louis and win the Central Division, Chicago and Colorado have appeared to be on a collision course for a first-round matchup for several weeks.
The Blackhawks are expecting both Toews and Kane to return for the postseason, and that gives head coach Joel Quenneville's team a sizable edge in experience and a history of success.
The Blackhawks know they can win in the playoffs, and even though Colorado has earned a 4-1 edge in regular-season meetings, the Blackhawks should be quite confident because they have proven they can score at key moments, while the Avs are playoff newcomers.
The combination of Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook means that the Blackhawks have the depth to support their superstars as they return from injuries.
The Avs started the season on a hot streak, and that gave rookie head coach Patrick Roy's team the confidence to succeed this season. Roy deserves full credit, because the Avs were skating in circles prior to the 2013-14 season.
The Avs are one of the best skating teams in the NHL, and that speed could cause problems for the Blackhawks even though that is also one of their attributes. They have several explosive players in Ryan O'Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny who are capable of manufacturing big goals.
However, the loss of Matt Duchene to a knee injury will hinder their chances of advancing to the next round.
Semyon Varlamov (40-14-6, 2.41 goals-against average, .927 save percentage) has become one of the top goaltenders in the league, and he has had a somewhat better season than Corey Crawford (31-15-10, 2.22 GAA, .918 save percentage).