The first and only time the Blackhawks won the President’s Trophy in 1990-91, the playoffs did not go as well as everyone expected.
After finishing with 106 points and winning the Norris Division, 38 points ahead of fourth-place Minnesota, coach Mike Keenan’s Hawks lost to the North Stars in the first round in six games in one of the biggest upsets in NHL history.
That’s the series in which the Hawks spent most of their time in the penalty box, prompting North Stars coach Bob Gainey to say Keenan’s team played on the edge of the rule book.
The President’s Trophy, which the Hawks will try to win this week for a second time, has been called cursed and jinxed since only seven of its 26 winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup since the trophy was first handed out in 1986.
Detroit was the last team to win the President’s Trophy and Stanley Cup in 2007-08.
“Maybe there’s that the expectations are a little higher for that type of team,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Vancouver played two games in a row to win a championship (after winning the President’s Trophy two years ago), that’s how close they were. It wasn’t like they were that far away.
“Some President’s Trophy teams have won it so you might as well look to try and be on top.”
Jonathan Toews would like to win the President’s Trophy but is more concerned that the Hawks are playing at the top of their game to start the playoffs.
“It’s a cool thing that people talk about, but they won’t talk about it very long,” Toews said. “It’s not that important.
“Of course we want to be the best and put ourselves at the top for the entire season, but the fact it’s called the President’s Trophy doesn’t mean a whole lot to us. We’re preparing ourselves for the postseason and that’s the most important thing right now.”
The Hawks, who don’t buy all that curse stuff, want to win it because it means they would have home ice in every round of the playoffs.
With four games to play, they lead Pittsburgh by 5 points in the overall standings. The Hawks still have to play Vancouver, Edmonton and St. Louis on the road, with Friday’s game against Calgary their only one at home.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls the Penguins’ chances of catching the Hawks a longshot.
“Hey, we saw last year with the eighth seed that anybody can win,” Quenneville said, citing the Los Angeles Kings. “The parity and closeness of all the teams, if anybody can get on a roll and take off and go, they think they can win it. I’m sure teams on both sides are thinking that.”
Marian Hossa has seen past President’s Trophy winners fail in the playoffs, including Quenneville’s St. Louis Blues in 1999-2000, when they finished with 114 points and lost in the first round.
“I don’t have an answer for all that,” Hossa said. “We just try to focus on the next game and get the best position we can for the playoffs and be ready for the first round. If we finish strong and feel good about ourselves going into the playoffs, that’s the most important thing.”
The Hawks dropped a point in the standings to Pittsburgh on Saturday when they lost to Phoenix in a shootout while the Penguins beat Boston.
“We’d like to win that, but we’ll do what we can do,” Quenneville said. “We’re looking to play that game we’re playing and looking to win that game and not looking too much further than that.
“You want to have confidence going into it, but you know you have to have that ability to ratchet it up to another level.”
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