Season lessons have prepped young Hawks for playoffs

Season lessons have prepped young Hawks for playoffs

April 26, 2013, 11:15 pm
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Nina Falcone

The Blackhawks packed their bags quickly Friday night before hopping on an airplane to close out their regular season in St. Louis. The team completed their final game at home with a 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Friday, and now each player is preparing for what comes next.

Andrew Shaw is now one game away from beginning his second postseason run with the Blackhawks, and the 21-year-old center showed nothing but confidence as he and his teammates get ready for the playoffs.

"We've had a great season, we had a lot to prove and I think with all this momentum going into the playoffs, we're going to do just great," he said.

This year marks Shaw's first full season on the Blackhawks' roster, and he's learned plenty more about the game along the way.

"It's physical, there are a lot of ups and downs," he said. "Ride the wave as much as we can, we have to stay physical, stick to our game and good things will come from it."

Good things sure have come from it so far. But next week the real competition begins as the Blackhawks aim for their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup. The team has had a target on their back since the season began, but the team's youngsters are ready to use that energy and pressure to their advantage.

"There are nerves before every game. I love hockey and I hate losing," Shaw said. "I like to play well. There are nerves throughout the regular season but they definitely escalate during the playoffs." 

[MORE: Blackhawks end home schedule with win over Flames]

But along with the nerves comes plenty of excitement. The Blackhawks have flown through the shortened 2013 campaign breaking everything from team to league-wide records. Each member of this year's squad has found their own way to contribute to the Blackhawks' successes, and 20-year-old rookie Brandon Saad has been one of the driving forces in the team's development.

Now Saad, who's seemed to have ice water running through his veins this year, will get his first full playoff experience. 

"I'm really excited. I know I got a taste of it last year, and any playoffs at any level at any league, it's always a lot of fun," he said.

Saad is entering this year's playoff run under very different circumstances. He's played his first year on an NHL roster and done so on the Blackhawks' top line alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. He proved he's where he belongs, recording 10 goals and 16 assists in 46 games this season.

And playing on a line with two of the league's top players has helped him get the experience he needs to feel confident going into the playoffs.

"It's been huge for my confidence and huge for my development," Saad said. "(Toews and Hossa) have been in the league since they were young and phenomenal players obviously. It's been a lot of help out there and it's been a great ride so far."