The playoffs, the “second season” as we like to call it, can come with a busy schedule.
There are the games, some of which go into overtime(s). There’s the travel. There’s the physical wear and tear, which only increases with each passing game. It’s a grind, and one that usually doesn’t come with much time to relax.
For the Blackhawks, however, that rare rest is here once again. Thanks to their 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, which gave them a four-game series sweep in the second round, the Blackhawks can kick back, relax and watch Calgary and Anaheim knock each other around a while longer.
[MORE HAWKS: Five things from Blackhawks-Wild Game 4]
“Yeah, we’ll see when the other series close out,” Corey Crawford said. “But I’m sure we’ll get at least a good week, I would say.”
Indeed, since the NHL will wait to begin the Eastern and Western Conference Finals until all second-round series are complete, the Blackhawks should get some ample time to recover. They had six days between when they eliminated the Nashville Predators to when they opened their series vs. the Wild. How much that helped, who knows; it certainly didn’t hurt. Whether it’s the Flames or the Ducks, the Blackhawks will face a much more physical series than they have to this point. So they’ll take the rest.
“Yeah, heal up some bumps and bruises and watch some games, scout the team that we might be playing,” Patrick Sharp said. “It’s a good series going on over there [between Anaheim and Calgary]. Anytime you can take a few days and rest it’s a positive this time of year and hopefully we’ll be ready for Game 1.”
That rest will probably benefit the Blackhawks’ defensemen the most. The team’s top four has logged strong minutes already – Duncan Keith is averaging a team-high 30 minutes, 37 seconds per game. And the top defensemen's minutes will likely go up now that Michal Rozsival’s status is official: he fractured his ankle in the second period on Thursday night, will need surgery and is out the rest of this postseason.
No matter who gets installed in the lineup to replace Rozsival – David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey and Michael Paliotta are available right now – the new guy may not hit the ground running. Also, keep in mind that Kimmo Timonen has played every game but sparingly, so Timonen has to play more or someone has to take those extra minutes, too.
“That group for the most part has played some significant minutes we’ll see how it all turns out and works out,” Quenneville said. “But a couple of days off here will be nice and we’ll see what happens.”
The Blackhawks advanced to the Western Conference Finals a lot faster than most expected. They’ll get a break, one that could be critical at this time of year.
“We’ll watch the other series and get ready for whoever we are playing next,” Patrick Kane said. “I think we have a couple days off here, so take advantage of the rest and make sure we are primed and ready for Game 1 in the conference finals.”