EDMONTON – It wasn’t exactly the last that they wanted, considering that it would signal the end of Chicago professional sports for the next three months.
On March 11th, the Blackhawks beat the Sharks 6-2 at the United Center, unaware of what was going on across sports. After two positive COVID-19 tests on the Jazz, the NBA shutdown their season, and the thought of playing sports suddenly didn’t seem as good as it did even hours before.
Every major league, including the NHL, suspended their seasons the next day, and the Blackhawks haven’t been on the ice for a game that counted since.
On Saturday, that finally ends.
The Blackhawks finally resume their 2019-2020 season Saturday afternoon against the Edmonton Oilers, doing so in the postseason nonetheless. It’s the first of a Best-of-Five preliminary round series in the Western Conference “bubble” in Edmonton to determine who enters the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It’s new life for Jeremy Colliton’s team that, frankly, wouldn’t have come had the season concluded at the normal time. Despite a strong run in late February, the Blackhawks most likely wouldn’t have qualified for the playoffs for a third-straight year.
But the NHL Tournament has given them new life, and a chance at a fourth Stanley Cup since 2010, even if it would take 19 victories to get over the next few months. As the 12th and final seed in the Western Conference, those expectations won’t be on this group, nor does Colliton believe their should be.
The fifth-seed in the West, Edmonton features one of the league’s best duos in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who are hoping their team has a breakthrough in these playoffs too.
“We shouldn’t feel pressure. We should feel excited about the opportunity,” said Colliton. “We know that’s an excellent team that we’re going to match-up against with two of the best players in the league and a supporting cast that’s gotten better and better as they year has gone on, and it’s going to be a big challenge.”
At least the Blackhawks have it, so they can finally play some hockey again in 2020.