Should Hawks be scared of No. 1?

April 22, 2013|By Alex Quigley | For RedEye

The Stanley Cup playoffs won't start until next week, but since the Blackhawks are locked in as the No. 1 seed in the West—and almost certainly No. 1 overall—it's only natural to start looking ahead to the postseason. Especially with this year's team, which is on pace to finish with the best points percentage of any NHL team since 1930. Heck, you may already be staking out a solid parade-watching spot.

But like a bizarro farmer, the Stanley Cup playoffs enjoy stomping on your silly little seeds. And if recent NHL playoff history is any guide, you and your fellow Hawks fans have an almost 30 percent chance of crushing disappointment in the first round. Yes, the [bleeping] first round.

Going back to 2005-06, four of the 14 top conference seeds have bowed out in the opening round, including three in the past four postseasons. There's been a common occurrence in each of those flameouts: unexpectedly poor goaltending from the top-seeded team.

Vancouver Canucks goalie/Twitter stud Roberto Luongo gave away two games to the eventual Cup-winning Kings last year. In 2009, the San Jose Sharks' Evgeni Nabokov suddenly horked up a .890 save percentage to help blow their opening series in six games. And in 2010 while the Blackhawks stormed through the West, the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals bowed out to 8-seed Montreal after netminder Semyon Varmalov allowed three goals on 21 shots in Game 6 and two goals on only 16 shots (!) in Game 7.

So do Blackhawks fans need to worry? Probably not, because they've got two of the top five goalies in the league this year. Both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have save percentages north of .920 and goals-against averages south of 2.00, meaning coach Joel Quenneville has his choice between two top-10 goalies should one of them get hurt or falter—a luxury that no other team has.

Add in that the 2013 Blackhawks are *significantly* statistically better than other recent top-seed teams and their 9-0-1 record against potential first-round opponents Minnesota, Columbus and Detroit, and advancing to the second round seems certain.

Just don't bother staking out a parade spot quite yet.

RedEye special contributor Alex Quigley can be heard on WGN Radio 720.

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