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NHL Playoffs 2011: The Chicago Blackhawks Get the Chance to Defend the Title

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 09: Members of the Chicago Blackhawks and their staff watch as the Stanley Cup Championship banner is raised during a ceremony before the Blackhawks season home opening game against the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on October 9, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Joe FaviaCorrespondent IIApril 10, 2011

Pins and needles.

That was what Blackhawk fans everywhere were on when following the action of the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars game on Sunday evening.

In what was as stressful for some as watching a Game 7 of a playoff game, the Wild gave the Blackhawks the gift of postseason play. In the spirit of last season for Chicago, a player named Antti came up big for the Blackhawks when they needed it most.

But, it was not Antti Niemi this time. Another Finnish player, Antti Miettinen, scored the go-ahead goal for Minnesota that would lead to the eventual 5-3 victory.

The Blackhawks, who were no doubt as distraught as they could be after the dejecting loss to the rival Red Wings earlier in the day, now have a second life as they have the opportunity to again march towards the Stanley Cup.

It was a relief for the team to get the final spot, and with a tied game going into the third period in Minnesota, it was anyone's game.

But, for the team that brought professional hockey back to the state of Minnesota, it was a small measure of redemption as they knocked out the Stars, who were the former team in town, dropping the "north" after moving to Texas.

But, despite that being nice for the Minnesota fan contingent, it was not what the Blackhawks were cheering for.

That win took the Blackhawks out of the running of being a Stanley Cup champion team who did not make the playoffs the next season. But, they will not join that group that only a handful of teams are apart of, and has not inducted a new member in five years.

It will be nice to celebrate getting into the playoffs for a brief period of time, but the most daunting of tasks lies ahead.

The Canucks are the team that the Blackhawks will be forced to play in the first round of the dance. It will be interesting to see if they can beat the team who has been their demon in their playoff runs the last two seasons.

The Canucks are the top dogs in the Western Conference, and the league for that matter, with the President's Trophy already in hand. They will not have to deal with players like Dustin Byfuglien and Antti Niemi, that have given them fits in the past and will not be in the game.

Dave Bolland's status is still up in the air for the series. If he could come back and make any impact on stopping the Sedin's, it would be an invaluable help in possibly winning the series.

Some feel as I do, that the Canucks would be the best matchup for the Blackhawks in the first round. That will reveal itself soon, but there's no doubt that it will be a fun series to see.

They say that good things come in threes. Let's hope that this is true, and the Blackhawks can knock out the Canucks in the playoffs for the third straight season.

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