When the Chicago Blackhawks clinched a playoff spot with their win over the Nashville Predators (same team they beat to clinch a spot in 2010, for those who look for harbingers), it marked the fourth straight year the Hawks are playing hockey beyond the confines of the regular season.
In case you didn’t think that was a big deal, especially in light of Detroit’s 20+ straight years, look at it this way.
Since the Chicago Blackhawks were established in 1926, there have been only two other times the franchise has made 4 straight trips into the postseason.
To be fair, the other two runs were pretty substantial. To put it into personal perspective (and let’s face it – what reason does anyone have to write a blog if not to take any event and make it about yourself?), when Mom finally evicted me from her womb in September 1962 (at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital – just a few blocks from the Stadium), the Hawks had, as they have now, gone to the postseason 4 straight years, with a Stanley Cup to their credit. In fact, until I was 35, there was only one season (1968-69) where the Blackhawks watched the playoffs on television.
Now four years might not seem like much, but…
A child born four years ago has gone from infant, to crawling, to walking, to becoming a major consumer, especially in the area of Dora the Explorer, Batman, and Angry Birds.
A car purchased four years ago has gone from shiny new ride with a 60 page payment book to a car with a dozen dings from shopping carts that you still have 12 payments on, and you can’t wait until you can get a hybrid because gas prices are killing you.
You’re still pretty sure the Cubs are going to the World series any year now.
A house purchased with a 30-year mortgage is still a house with a 30-year mortgage, since you’ve refinanced three times in the past four years.
You’ve had at least 25 conversations with your Cousin Dave about the fact that he can keep that bottle of 12-year-old Scotch for as long as he wants, it’ll still be 12-year-old scotch.
But anyway, the Blackhawks. Maybe four years doesn’t seem like all that much, but compared to the drought from 1998 to 2009, where they wandered through the desert – only led to a playoff oasis in 2002 (thanks to the ABC Line), it is a Golden Era.
They cut rheir playoff teeth in fine fashion, running to the Conference Final in 2009. They had the unusual experience of winning a Stanley Cup with a credit card in 2010, knowing that new contracts to Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Patrick Kane would mean they would have to dismantle their Championship team in order to get under the Salary Cap. This would make Hawks fans decry the Cap, despite the fact that if there was never a Salary Cap, Marian Hossa would never be a Blackhawk. Then last year they backed into a playoff spot, when the Dallas Stars couldn’t beat the Minnesota Wild knowing they were in a “win and in” situation. Then they came from being down 3-0 in games to the Vancouver Canucks to almost pulling off the impossible before losing Game 7 in overtime.
This year they’re in without needing any help from any other teams. The only help any other teams could provide them at this point involve seeding, but unless they run the table and get lots of help, they’re cradled in the 6 seed. They probably won’t know their first-round opponent until the last game of the 2011-12 regular season is played, since it’s between the Kings and Sharks.
Before the season started, over on Hockeenight I stated the Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup. Going forward, I’d be tempted to say things would have to go very wrong for the Blackhawks to miss the playoffs. However, they’ve been without their captain Jonathan Toews for 21 games this season and they survived a 9-game losing streak, and here they are.
Maybe this isn’t the year they clog up downtown streets in June for a parade. But you’ve got to be in it to win it, and they’re in.
About the Author: Spent my formative years breathing in the rarified air of the second balcony at Chicago Stadium. Refined my flair for colorful euphemisms in the blue seats at Madison Square Garden. Now a curmudgeon in the 300 level in the United Center. My musings can also be found at Hockeenight.com...and yes, I muse.