The takes were coming in hot Thursday night after the Blackhawks lost 1-0 to the Predators in their series opener. This was a home game for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, yet the Hawks found themselves in a hole after a poor first period, then couldn’t break through with Pekka Rinne in the zone.
You pretty much know what followed next: A combination of people telling everyone not to freak out, and people totally freaking out. It’s not the playoffs until Blackhawks fans are totally overreacting to each ebb and flow in what we’ve all learned by now is a marathon, not a sprint.
So let’s just put think bluntly so everyone get on with a beautiful Friday: The Blackhawks are very much still in this. They don’t need to make any grand strategic changes to overhaul a system or lineup that led to a lot of wins in the regular season. They will win this series if things keep going like they did over the final two periods of Game 1, where the Hawks dominated only for Rinne to channel his old, peak self.
The Blackhawks have been through this before, and not just in the sense that their core has more playoff experience than any team in the NHL. They’ve lost Game 1 of their playoff runs many times, and it’s not been much of a sign of what happens next. To make us all feel better, here’s a look at how the Hawks started each of their playoff runs since 2010.
2010: 4-1 loss to Predators
Well would you look at that! The Blackhawks’ first Stanley Cup run in 49 years started with a loss to Nashville. The Hawks would go on to win four of the next five, including a 5-3 Game 6 win on the road, to reach the second round. They wouldn’t trail in a series again.
2011: 2-0 loss to Canucks
The Blackhawks would get into a 3-0 hole against the Canucks, then racked off three straight wins to force a Game 7. They ended up getting knocked out, but even in a first-round ouster, they battled to make things interesting.
2012: 3-2 overtime loss to Coyotes
Roughly the same result as the year before. A Game 1 loss to Arizona that started five consecutive overtime games, eventually the Coyotes won the series, 4-2.
2013: 2-1 win over Wild
Here’s a year where the Blackhawks won Game 1, but they won everything that year. Other than the 3-1 scare with the Red Wings in the second round, which came after winning Game 1 of that series, they rolled to another Cup.
2014: 4-3 triple-overtime loss to Blues
The Blackhawks not only lost to St. Louis in Game 1, but fell behind 2-0 in the series after a second straight OT loss. Then they racked off four wins in a row and knocked out the Wild before taking the Kings to seven games.
2015: 4-3 double-overtime win over Predators
Instead of falling behind 1-0 in the series, the Blackhawks fell behind 3-0 in the first period against the Predators before rallying for a 4-3 win. They would end up grinding their win to a 4-2 series win before going on to win the Stanley Cup.
2016: 1-0 overtime loss to Blues
Another shutout loss to open the playoffs, this time against St. Louis. The Blues would eventually take a 3-1 series lead before the Hawks won two in a row to force Game 7, which St. Louis won in a close battle. Don’t be surprised if the current Hawks-Preds series goes right down to the wire like this one did.
2017: 1-0 loss to Predators
So no reason to worry, right?
Not really! The Blackhawks have gone 2-6 in Game 1s to open their playoff runs since 2010, yet there’s not a ton to glean from that. Yes, they won Game 1 each of the past two times they won the Stanley Cup, but they lost Game 1 in 2010 when they won their first. They also lost Game 1 in 2014, which saw a deep run to Game 7 of the West Finals.
Of course you’d rather win Game 1, and have that advantage to get to the next round. As the Blackhawks have shown over the past eight years, however, they don’t always play well to open the postseason, and it’s usually not a great sign of what’s going to come next.