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TAKE 2: Blackhawks' competition gets steeper

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(AP photo)
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) blocks a shot by Minnesota Wild's Devin Setoguchi (10) as Matt Cullen (7), right, looks on during the first period Thursday of Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at the United Center.

As expected, the Blackhawks had little trouble moving past the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference quarterfinals. Now, only 12 victories separate the Hawks from the Stanley Cup. Sports editor Jon Styf and columnist Tom Musick discuss:

Musick: The Bulls’ playoff run has been a nice story, but I think we all know that will end soon. The Bears have more than two months to go until training camp begins. And baseball in Chicago is, well, you know. So how long can the high-flying Hawks keep us entertained?

Styf: Things just got difficult. And the travel will be a bear, so get ready for that. The road to the finals now involve going to California, probably twice. They could play a streaking Sharks team and then, most likely, a Ducks team that can give them fits. Don’t expect any other team to roll over like the Wild did.

Musick: That was Joel Quenneville’s mindset after the Hawks’ series-clinching win against the Wild, and he was right. He refused to do any cartwheels, which probably was best for everyone involved considering his age and lack of gymnastics experience. Yet the Hawks were the best team during the regular season, and they gave us no reason to doubt them in Round 1, outscoring an overmatched Minnesota team, 17-7, during a lopsided series.

Styf: As a traditionalist and someone charged with sending you to the next series, here’s hoping the Red Wings do us a favor Sunday night. It’s a better rivalry, it’s a closer trip. It just makes more sense for the fans and the penny counters. It’s also a team I’m pretty confident the Blackhawks will beat. I don’t feel so certain about any of those California teams.

Musick: I would be happy to spend a few days in Pure Michigan. So would the Hawks. They won all four games against the Wings this season, and they are 12-2-2 in the 2010s (is that what we’re calling this decade?) after losing the 1990s and 2000s. Granted, the Hawks also went 3-0 against the Sharks this season, but San Jose would be a tougher matchup as the more physical team.

Musick: This is going to sound weird, but I think all Hawks fans should cheer like crazy for the Wings to win their Game 7. As a species, ducks seem OK (I too like bread), but as a team, the Ducks match up really well against the Hawks. For whatever it’s worth, I see the Hawks advancing past the next round, and if they don’t have to face the Ducks, I see them advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. As far as how they might match up against the champion of the Eastern Conference, I have no idea. That’s anyone’s guess.

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