Reaching the playoffs and achieving home-ice advantage in the opening round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs are just the first steps for this Blackhawks team. The Hawks will have home ice for the first time in a series since 1996, and they accumulated the third-most points in the conference while playing in the NHL's most competitive division.
But there's no guarantee that home ice wins a series. In the playoffs, the team with the hottest goalie usually prevails, as was the case when Nikolai Khabibulin led Tampa Bay to victory in 2004. Tight defense and limiting your turnovers can also make the difference in postseason success.
Chicago fans have a ton of reasons to be proud of this season's team, which averages less than 26 years of age, along with being led by the youngest captain in the NHL in 20-year-old Jonathan Toews
This year -- for the first time since the 1995-96 campaign -- the Hawks have 10 players with 40 points, including four 20-goal scorers and one 30-goal scorer. In 1995-96, there were eleven 40-point players and two 20- and three 30-goal scorers.
The Hawks have enjoyed another big improvement this season: their special teams units, which have consistently ranked in the top half of the league on both the power play and penalty kill. Because both are effective, the offense has been able to post the big numbers that they have this year.
And while recording-breaking crowds at the UC this season have certainly given the team an extra boost in the past, the last time the Hawks won the Stanley Cup, they accomplished that feat on the road -- in Detroit!
Hopefully this young band of Hawks can show the NHL how much progress they have made toward reaching this year's "ONE GOAL!"