Chicago Blackhawks Back in the Playoffs After Dallas Stars Choke

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Chicago Blackhawks Back in the Playoffs After Dallas Stars Choke
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Joel Quenneville has had a lot to bark to his players about this season

Joel Quenneville was quoted as saying he had never been more excited about a hockey game than he was about seeing the Minnesota Wild beat the Dallas Stars in the NHL's final regular season game.

What he should feel is relief, not joy.

The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, needed a team that had lost more games than it had won to beat a team that had been victorious in four games straight just to make it to the playoffs.

Despite once leading the NHL's toughest division, however, Dallas could not close out the victory to make the playoffs and instead allowed the Hawks back into the race. The Stars have now missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, much to the delight of those Minnesota fans in attendance who could remember the franchise leaving them for North Texas.

No true champion feels joy at needing someone else to keep them on life support. That being said, this is a team that's had huge roster losses from the one that won it all last year—only fans blinded by their hearts or filled with conceit think this is still a top NHL team, despite going 11 of the last 13 seasons without even a single playoff series victory.

They have been there before and still have both a great blueline and two great forward lines. What's more, they are getting good goaltending from rookie Corey Crawford.

However, their joy will still probably end before April does. They open on Wednesday against the team whose playoff hopes they've squashed in each of the last two seasons, the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.

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If they make it past Vancouver, the team they knocked out in the Western Conference finals, the San Jose Sharks, will likely be next. San Jose has taken three of four from Chicago and had a strong finish to this season.

It seems unlikely that either of these teams will miss out on an opportunity to exact revenge, because it is also unlikely that either will fear the 2011 version. Thus, for Chicago to make the conference finals would take a near-miracle.

Thanks to Minnesota, however, they live to defend their title for at least another nine days.

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