NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Blackhawks won’t play in their two most important games this weekend. While they played out the string in relatively meaningless games in Washington and Nashville, their first-round opponent will be decided Sunday.
The St. Louis Blues host the Detroit Red Wings in the early national game, and the Colorado Avalanche visit the Anaheim Ducks in the evening. If the Blues lose in regulation, the Hawks will be in St. Louis to open the postseason, likely Thursday. If the Blues get more points than the Avalanche, the Hawks will be in Denver, also likely Thursday.
But don’t expect a massive team gathering to watch the games unfold.
“I’m probably going to watch the Masters,” Peter Regin said with a shrug. “But I’ll keep an eye on it and see what’s going on, who we’re going to play.”
After all, it’s not like the Hawks need to do much advance scouting on either team. The Blues and Avalanche have emerged as the Hawks’ biggest rivals in the new league alignment, and they’ve played each other five times each. The Blues won three of five against the Hawks, and the Avalanche won four of five.
“We’ve kept an eye on both those teams over the last little while, anyway,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’re very familiar with them.”
The staggering Blues have lost five in a row, while the Avs went 8-0-1 before falling to the San Jose Sharks on Friday night. The Blues also have several injured standouts, including Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Brenden Morrow. But the Hawks know better than to root for one team over the other. The Blues dominated the league for much of the season, have arguably the best defense/goaltender combination in the league and play a brutally physical game that takes its toll.
No matter how Sunday plays out, the Hawks know they’ll have their hands full. So rather than sweating it out, they’ll be back home, trying to enjoy their last day off before the playoffs, while their first-round foe is decided elsewhere.
“You’re always watching, but I’m not too concerned,” Bryan Bickell said. “I’m just concerned about our team game, the way we’re going to go. Whatever team we play, on the road or at home, will be a tough team. We’re just looking forward to it.”