Just five months ago, it looked like there was a good chance the entire 2012-13 season would be lost. After months of debating and negotiating, the NHL season finally kicked off. And from the way the Blackhawks first took the ice on Jan. 19, it looked like no time had been lost for Chicago.
Now the lockout is a distant memory. From the moment Patrick Kane recorded that first goal of the year, the Blackhawks' record-breaking season gave the fans what they had been missing as the team began their quest to becoming the best organization in the league.
With the NHL playoffs just days away, that journey will continue for Chicago as they face off against the Minnesota Wild in the first round. After becoming the first team to clinch a playoff berth, the Blackhawks have had some breathing room since earning the Presidents' Trophy back on April 25. But the playoffs are a whole other animal, and the Blackhawks -- who went 2-0-1 against the Wild this season -- believe they have a lot to prepare for.
“They work, they play tight and every game’s been close when we’ve faced them,” Joel Quenneville said of the Wild following Saturday's game in St. Louis. “We have to find a way.”
The Wild, on the other hand, had to fight tooth and nail up until the very end in order to clinch a spot in the postseason. They didn't officially make the playoffs until they won their regular-season finale against the Avalanche, and now they're preparing for what's coming next.
"We have a lot of work to do tomorrow, let's just put it that way," Wild coach Mike Yeo told Minnesota reporters about his team's preparations for facing the Blackhawks. "The one thing I will say is, I think we shift to a bit of an underdog role... so that will change the mentality a little bit. But as far as we're concerned, we believe we're capable."
"We beat (the Blackhawks) once at home and I thought we gave them a great game the other time at home," Zach Parise said. "They're a puck possession team, they don't give you a lot of chances, so we'll have to make sure we're smart with and without the puck because they have a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net."
Parise's said since his team's first matchup against Chicago this season that the Blackhawks weren't getting enough credit for the incredible year they were having. On Saturday, he compared them to a team that went on to win it all.
"They play the way Detroit played when they had (Nicklas) Lidstrom and (Brian) Rafalski back there where you feel like you go the whole game without touching the puck," he said. "So we'll have to be patient and wait for our chances."