Over the weekend the Chicago Blackhawks won the NHL Western Conference championship and for the fifth time since 1967 the Clarence S. Campbell trophy which captain Johnathan Toews refused to hold knowing there was more hockey to play.
The trophy was initially given to the team with the best regular season record in the western conference which the Blackhawks had in 1971, 1972, and 1973 and later to the conference champion which the Hawks won on the same day Johnny Carson did his last show in 1992.
Knowing their opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, were the seventh seed in the eastern conference and just like the NBA Chicago Bulls won 41 out of 82 regular season games including one on the last day to make the playoffs, people are already stating playing this series will be nothing but a formality. (Note: the Flyers record is listed as 41-35-6. The 6 stands for overtime losses and not ties as one point is awarded for an overtime loss since 1999 and a shootout was created in 2005 so no NHL game would end in a tie.)
It is not that uncommon for the team in the NHL playoffs without the home ice advantage to win in a seven game series as matchups and goaltending could make the difference. Since 2000, there have been 22 playoff series involving teams with a 10+ difference in wins and the lesser team has won 7 times including Montreal defeating Washington this year. Also, half of the 14 playoff series this year have been won by the team with the fewer regular season points including two by the Flyers and the Blackhawks in the conference finals even though they had more regular season wins than San Jose.
The NHL has a history of playoff upsets including Minnesota defeating the Blackhawks in the first round of the 1991 playoffs though the Blackhawks won 22 more regular season games.
Looking further back, this is the combined regular season record of the Blackhawks in the three seasons they won the title (1934, 1938, 1961):
When I posted about the Blackhawks in October, my concern about the team was goal tending. My initial thought was that if they could stop 90% of the shots in the playoffs, the team would be fine. Had that happened in the conference finals, San Jose would probably be up three games to one by Sunday afternoon. As long as Niemi and the rest of the team stays healthy, I do not see the Blackhawks needing more than five games to win the Stanley Cup. Hopefully, the team will play to their abilities and make this happen.