The Chicago Blackhawks have had plenty of time to rest, heal, plan and improve their game to face arguably their toughest competition in this years playoffs.

The Blackhawks probably did not play their best series against the Nashville Predators yet they advanced in six games. They then faced one of the hottest teams coming into the playoffs and a goaltender that is up for the Vezina Trophy and somehow dispensed of him and his team in short order leaving Minnesota to wonder what exactly they have to do to get past the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Hawks now face a team they have never played in the playoffs thus making them somewhat of an unknown quantity. The tale of the series however may not be decided by what is actually happening on the ice but what is happening in the minds of the players.

The psychological warfare has already begun with shots being fired from both sides first with Blackhawks Andrew Shaw’s comment of “the bigger they are the harder they fall”. Then Ducks Ryan Kesler, who by the way, is no rookie to smack talk with the Chicago Blackhawks. His comment of the Hawks being a good team but “beatable” was return fire for the Shaw comment.

What really was interesting was the normally stoic Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews comment of going into Anaheim and hopefully “taking one or two games”. Toews is not a player that pounds his chest so the comments were chosen for a purpose you can believe that. You have to love or at least appreciate the gamesmanship here in what is already shaping up to be a great series and could be one for the ages.

Honestly if the Blackhawks do come out of Anaheim with two games one you could almost bet the series would be over. The Toews comment one can assume is simply a foundation. A foundation for laying the ground work to place doubt in the minds of their opponents and you could say the Ducks opened the doors by virtue of their history and their comments.

By both Kesler and even Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau making comments about that the Blackhawks are beatable sounds almost like they are a team trying to convince themselves that they stand a chance.  The Hawks still do have to go out on the ice and execute as do the Ducks. All the talking in the world will not get it done on the ice but it is fun to write and talk about.

Looking at both teams it is the classic big, physical team against the speed, puck possession team so the pairing aesthetically should be very entertaining for hockey fans, even if you are not a fan of either team. Both teams have great captains, star power, depth at forward and goaltending that is capable of stealing games, but what this may all come down to could be who has the will to pay the price that it takes to get to the next round.

In that category you would have to say the Blackhawks have more individuals that knows what it takes but can one ever measure someone’s desire? Is it possible the Anaheim Ducks want it more than the Chicago Blackhawks?

The Anaheim Ducks have never faced the Blackhawks and they have never been able to get past the Los Angeles Kings. The Blackhawks have faced and gotten past Stanley Cup Champions in the Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and they even got past their old divisional mentor, the Detroit Red Wings albeit a much younger Wings team, but it was still coached by Mike Babcock.

The Blackhawks are battle tested. Even if the Ducks get past the Blackhawks, in the back of everyone’s mind will be that they did not have to face the Kings and perhaps had an easy road to the final.

Not taking anything away from the Flames and Jets but both of those teams were playoff newbies and in all honesty exceeded expectations and were just glad to make it to the dance. That will not be the case with the Blackhawks

All of the pressure is on the Ducks to prove that they truly belong in the big boys of hockey club, and until they do that the onus of proof will be on them. Until that time  there has to be a sliver of doubt in their minds, which is not to say they can’t overcome it but when you are battling an opponent on the ice and one in your head it has to exhaust you.

It is no surprise that the Ducks will test the Hawks especially the defenseman physically with the loss of Michal Rozsival, but it maybe the mental exhaustion the Ducks have to face particularly if the Hawks get up early on them in the series and steal a game in Anaheim. If as Jonathan Toews wishes they take two games early in the series,  it will be over as the Ducks are not the Kings.

Making it past physical exhaustion is easy just avoid the hits with your speed. Getting over self-doubt is a much harder task. It’s not impossible but it does leave one weary and we have all seen the Blackhawks like the Kings, possess killer instincts and know when to take the life out of an opponent. Ryan Kesler is all too familiar with this.

Will this be the year that Boudreau and his Ducks of Anaheim can become dragon slayers?

We shall see.

If they do they will truly have earned it. The team they are facing has seen it all, lived it all and dealt with it all before. They have experiences to draw from that are as extensive as volumes of  encyclopedias and that is what makes the Chicago Blackhawks along with their skills so daunting an opponent.

This series will be a physical Goliath vs a mental Goliath.

Who can’t wait for the games to begin?

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