Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: A Blackhawks Fan Guide to the Conference Finals

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview: A Blackhawks Fan Guide to the Conference Finals

Chicago Blackhawks

After four fantastic series, the NHL has arrived at the conference finals. The New York Rangers handled their business on Monday night and will host Game One of the Eastern Conference Final at Madison Square Garden against a Lightning team that’s been waiting for what feels like a month since they swept the Panthers.

But first, we’ll be treated to a Western Conference Final that might rival the movie Ford vs. Ferrari. Speed, speed and more speed will be on display in what should be one of the better series in recent memory. And the Blackhawks — and their fans — will be watching because there are direct implications on Chicago’s rebuild riding on that series.

Former Blackhawk Factor

Colorado: None
Edmonton: Duncan Keith

Ex-Hawk Edge: Edmonton — this is easy because there’s only one former Blackhawk in the mix in this series. However, Keith’s play — and, more specifically, his ice time — are important to the future of his former employer. A win in this series with Keith being one of the Oilers’ top-four defensemen in TOI would make the pick the Hawks received from Edmonton a second rounder in this summer’s draft.

X-Factor: this is going to be one of the fastest matchups in recent NHL playoff history. Both teams like to get up and down the ice and do it faster than just about anyone else in the league. We’re going to say the X-Factor in this series isn’t Connor McDavid or Nathan MacKinnon, however. Evander Kane has benefitted from McDavid’s wizardry more than anyone in these playoffs. If he can continue to get himself in the right spot and finish around the net, the Oilers could make that pick heading to Chicago improve by a round.


Game 1: Tuesday @ Colorado — 7 PM CT — TNT
Game 2: Thursday @ Colorado — 7 PM CT — TNT
Game 3: Saturday @ Edmonton — 2 PM CT — TNT
Game 4: Monday @ Edmonton — 7 PM CT — TNT
Game 5*: Wednesday @ Colorado — TBD — TNT
Game 6*: Friday @ Edmonton — TBD — TNT
Game 7*: Sunday @ Colorado — TBD — TNT
* – if necessary

Former Blackhawk Factor

NY Rangers: Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte
Tampa: Brandon Hagel, Jan Rutta

Ex-Hawk Edge: Rangers — this is a tough one because the two bigger names on these lists — Panarin and Hagel — are two of the recent trades that most Hawks fans hate the most. But Motte has been a really good player for the Rangers and Panarin is asked to drive a lot of the offense for the Rangers.

X-Factor: his name is Igor Shesterkin. Write it down in pen, because you should already know it. He’s been the best goaltender on the planet this year, and he showed up big time when the chips were on the table in the first two rounds. Tampa has championship experience all over the roster, however; they know what it takes to win the Cup. So this round will be the hardest of the playoffs for Shesterkin. He’ll need to play like the Vezina winner he’s presumed to be this year for the Rangers to escape a third series and play for the Cup.


Game 1: Wednesday @ MSG — 7 PM CT — ESPN
Game 2: Friday @ MSG — 7 PM CT — ESPN
Game 3: Sunday @ Tampa — 2 PM ET — ESPN
Game 4: Tuesday @ Tampa — 7 PM CT — ESPN
Game 5*: Thursday @ MSG — TBD — ESPN
Game 6*: Saturday @ Tampa — TBD — ESPN
Game 7*: Tuesday @ MSG — TBD — ESPN
* – if necessary

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab