Just win: Blackhawks insist playoff opponent doesn't matter

Just win: Blackhawks insist playoff opponent doesn't matter
April 7, 2012, 12:17 am
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DETROIT Round and round the playoff scenarios go. How they play out for the Blackhawks? Nobody knows. Yet.

Will the Blackhawks face a familiar Central Division foe? Will they instead face a Pacific Division opponent that will have quite a few points less than they? Do point totals, when the second season begins, even matter?

You know what? Its a new season, Bryan Bickell said. Everybody starts at zero.

The Blackhawks playoff picture is still a little muddled, and they could play their part in clearing it up Saturday when they play the Detroit Red Wings. If the Blackhawks win in regulation, theyll finish fifth and would play the Nashville Predators in the first round next week. If they win in overtime or a shootout, or lose, theyll finish in sixth and play the Pacific champ whoever the heck wins that division.

But for the Blackhawks, it doesnt really matter. The playoffs are when the slate is wiped clean and every team has as good a chance as the other seven to make some noise.

You have to play every top team to get to the main goal, Bickell said. Were going to look at whoever we play, adjust to their style, and do our best from there.

Yes, but its still so tempting to look at regular-season series results and think, hmmm, would this be a good idea? Take the Blackhawks series against the Predators. Nashville won four of those six games, with the Hawks taking the first and last of the series. It wasnt always pretty, but at least one player wouldnt mind the Nashville matchup.

You guys talk about staying away from Nashville, but I dont know if that would be that bad. I wouldnt mind playing a team a little closer, said Viktor Stalberg. It takes a toll on your body, going out west. If youre going to win, youre going to have to go through some good teams, no matter what the round. I dont think anyone just wants to get by the first round. From my own preference, it would be to play a team thats closer.

To get that, the Blackhawks would have to get that fifth seed, and they have every intention of going for it at Joe Louis Arena Saturday.

Our focus is to play the right way. Weve got one game left before the playoffs and we want to play the right way and get ready for the playoffs, said Jamal Mayers, who hasnt been guessing playoff matchups.

We really dont have much control over it; there are so many different scenarios. We have to focus on ourselves and get ready. It certainly looks like well start on the road, so that creates another challenge.

Coach Joel Quenneville concurred.

We always play to win, he said. We coach the same way.

The playoff picture will finally be clear late Saturday night. The Blackhawks could end up close by or two time zones away. Theyll be ready one way or another. Because ultimately, its about how the Blackhawks are playing. Not who they are playing.

Were feeling good about our game and confident going into any series, Stalberg said. Its come down to (a few things). We have to pick up our special teams. And if we play 5 on 5 like we have the last 15 games or so, well be in pretty good shape.