Not many teams have dominated a regular season and have been an almost certainty to win the Presidents' Trophy for most points in the league, yet simultaneously evoked so much anxiety about a deep postseason run like the Vancouver Canucks.
In a local poll on television, Chicago fans were asked which team the Blackhawks would have the best chance against in the first round of the playoffs. Seventy percent responded with Vancouver.
If it were any other team dominating the way the Canucks have this season, it would be shocking.
But these are the same Canucks that have played and been shut down by the Blackhawks in the playoffs the last two seasons in the Semifinals. Both of those series ended up going to Game 6, and both times the Blackhawks moved on to the Western Conference Finals.
Both of the last two seasons saw the Canucks and Blackhawks in the top four in the conference rankings, and within a couple points of one another before the playoffs began.
That obviously will not be the case this season as the Canucks have been running on all cylinders this season. One win away from the President's Trophy and the clear favorite to represent the Western Conference in the Finals, Vancouver has done no wrong, led by the Sedins and Vezina candidate Roberto Luongo.
Ryan Kesler described how it would feel to win the team honor for most points:
"It's not our main goal, but it's a goal along the way. It was good to clinch the Western Conference and to win the Presidents' Trophy, it's never been done (by the franchise). It would be a good thing for this franchise."
The majority of hockey and Canucks fans most certainly share this sentiment. The Canucks have let down the fateful in British Columbia in the past two seasons, like nothing that can be compared with for Chicago fans of late.
The Bulls had the Pistons of the late '80s, early '90s. The Bears had a decade of Brett Favre in a Packers uniform. The Cubs have the Cardinals and Albert Pujols. And, the White Sox have the Twins; who formerly dominated them in what was known to Sox fans as "The Terror Dome".
Just so Blackhawks fans can understand the pain of the Canucks; we have become the Pistons, Cardinals, Brett Favre, and yes, the Hubert H. Humphrey Dome.
This season has been a roller coaster for the Blackhawks, and it cannot even be guaranteed that they will make the playoffs. However, as it stands the Blackhawks would be in with the eighth and final spot in the West, and shocker: they would be matched up with those very same Canucks.
Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd made Luongo's life a "living Hell" in the second-round matchups in 2009 and last season. They are now in Thrashers uniforms, but the tension for Canucks fans remains at possibly taking on the Hawks early.
The Canucks and Blackhawks have split the four games that they played this season with the Hawks taking the first two, and Vancouver taking the last two.
The first was a battle between Luongo and Marty Turco, in which they sent it to a shootout. The second was a 7-1 killing by the Blackhawks in the first home lose of the season for the Canucks. The third was the opposite as Luongo pitched a beautiful shutout opposite Turco once again. The fourth and most recent meeting saw the Canucks come back and win despite being down by one with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
The after-effect of these games should be gone and past by then as the last meeting was during the first week of February. The precedent that the Blackhawks would hope would be in the Canucks' heads would be the likes of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane making Roberto Luongo look like a minor leaguer in the playoffs.
If the Blackhawks make the playoffs, it seems that the best matchup would be against the Canucks.
The Red Wings would not have the psychological disadvantage as they have the recent-memory upper hand when it comes to the playoffs, dating back to their victory over the Hawks in the Western Finals two seasons ago. They are also a group that has many members that have been to the Finals and won, unlike the Canucks.
The Sharks are similar in some ways to the Canucks in that they have had some playoff collapses they would like to avenge. The Sharks do have someone who helped with the torture of the Canucks as well in Antti Niemi. San Jose would most definitely present a tougher matchup than they did last season where they were swept in four games.
Could the Blackhawks be benefited most by playing the Canucks in the first round?
That would be very difficult to say because of how good the Canucks have looked through an almost completed regular season, and the Blackhawks have been rather mediocre in that stretch.
The Blackhawks still have work to do in order to get the chance at possibly playing the Canucks, but the chance of this playoff matchup is real, and it would be something to see.
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