During the dynasty era, the Blackhawks were perennial Stanley Cup contenders and often times the favorites to come out of the Western Conference. But this is new territory for them.
The Blackhawks are going into the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs as heavy underdogs, and they're embracing the fact nobody is giving them a real shot to win.
"It's a cool role to play," Patrick Kane said going into their first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights. "It's exciting for our team when everyone's counting you out and no one's really giving you a chance."
Echoed Kirby Dach: "I'm looking forward to this series vs. Vegas and to really show everyone who the Hawks are, that we're here to win and not just be here."
The Blackhawks flexed their muscles in the qualifying round after beating the Edmonton Oilers in four games as the No. 12 seed. But they have their hands full against the Golden Knights, and we saw why in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
The Golden Knights beat the Blackhawks 4-1 and led in shot attempts (57-50), shots on goal (33-20) and even-strength high-danger chances (7-4), according to Natural Stat Trick. The 20 shots on goal tied a season-low for the Blackhawks, who were reminded how tight-checking of a team the Golden Knights can be.
"They're a very structured, simple team, play a heavy game," Calvin de Haan said. "You've got to tip your hat sometimes, they played well as a squad. ... It's frustrating, but at the same time, I thought we played well enough that we could've won that game."
The Golden Knights are a well-oiled machine, but they didn't exactly dominate the possesion game the way they usually do. That’s not to say they weren’t the better team — because they were — but the Golden Knights won because they simply didn't give up a lot and, most importantly, prevented the Blackhawks from ever taking control of the game even when they weren't at their best.
"We expect a tight series, we expect it to be a grind, we expect to face adversity," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We did that. And we were right there. But we're going to have to find a way to win some of these games, but we've got put ourselves in that position as well. We've just got to stick with it; they did that a little bit longer than us."
The Blackhawks aren't going to get down on themselves after only one game. They showed they could make this a competitive series if they stay patient and play a conservative game.
At the same time, the Blackhawks know they've got to go fight for it because the Golden Knights will make you earn everything you get.
"We have a great opportunity here," Duncan Keith said. "The first game is under our belts. At the end of the day, not many teams are giving us a chance to win. So I think part of it is just going out and having fun, especially for younger guys — everybody, really. Enjoy the challenge. It's a great challenge, but it's also a great opportunity for our group.
"We're right there. It's one game. I don't think we're happy with the game, but we know that we can be better and I think that's a good thing too. And we're going have to be better."
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