Ahead of the NHL pause on March 12 — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the Blackhawks had almost zero chance to be in the playoffs.
They sat at No. 12 in the Western Conference, six points out of a wild card spot with four teams to jump in 12 remaining regular season games.
Now that they'll be facing the Edmonton Oilers in a little over two weeks for a chance to make a run at the Stanley Cup again, they're going to embrace the challenge.
"It’s going to be a tough series against Edmonton," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said following the Hawks' first day of training camp leading up to the postseason on Monday. "They have two of the best players in the world - if not THE two best to players in the world in (Connor) McDavid and (Leon) Draisaitl. But it’s not just those two guys. There (are) other players on their team that are dangerous. They were ahead of us in the standings, so we know we’ve got our work cut out for us. But we’re excited to have this opportunity and show that we belong and we could make some noise as an underdog."
As an underdog, most of the pressure is off Chicago and on Edmonton. The West's No. 5 team at the time of the pause is not only the favorite to beat a team that wouldn't have normally been in the postseason in the Blackhawks, but they have the added expectation of winning as the home ice club with the series being played in Edmonton.
In March, the Hawks realistically may have either been dwelling on why they came up short again or which golf courses they should hit up. Now, they're thinking about how they have nothing to lose in a postseason they're not supposed to be in, taking on a team they're not supposed to beat.
"I think we match up pretty well," Hawks forward Brandon Saad said after Day 2 of camp on Tuesday. "It’s something we haven’t touched upon too much here at camp. It’s more about getting ready and focusing on what we can bring to the table. But I think everyone’s looked pretty good in camp for the most part with staying in shape and trying to take advantage of getting the touches and reps in. But they have a good team and I know it’s going to be a challenge for us. But I think for us, we’re confident as a group regardless of who we’re playing. Just focus on what we can do to have success."
After Day 2's practice, Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said the team will begin strategizing for the matchup shortly.
The Hawks finish up their Phase 3 training camp on Sunday, July 26 before traveling to Edmonton to take on the Oilers.
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