The defending champion Chicago Blackhawks are aiming to become the first team
since the 1997-98 Red Wings to claim back-to-back Stanley Cup titles, while
the path back to the Finals for the defending Eastern Conference champions,
the Boston Bruins, was made easier after winding up with the best record in
the NHL for the first time since 1990.
The Blackhawks are expected to have captain Jonathan Toews and reigning Conn
Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Kane back from injury when they open their series
against the reeling St. Louis Blues on Thursday.
St. Louis is trending the wrong way into the playoffs, as a late-season swoon
cost them the Central Division title. The Blues lost six straight to conclude
the regular season, totaling only five goals and being shut out three times.
The 'Hawks will face the Blues starting Thursday in St. Louis. Game Two is Saturday, with Game Three set for next Monday.