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Article updated: 4/25/2013 8:04 PM

Hawks looking to carry confidence into playoffs

By Tim Sassone

Now that they have won the Presidents' Trophy, it's all about dealing with playoff expectations for the Blackhawks.

Whoever they get in the first round, it won't be easy, but the Hawks have handled everything thrown their way during this memorable regular season.

The Hawks started the year by setting an NHL record with at least 1 point in 24 straight games and never looked back.

"To have the start to the season that we had and to keep playing consistently is an amazing thing for our team," Jonathan Toews said. "We've shown a lot of character, we've definitely learned from our mistakes the last few years, and we've grown. I think everyone has matured as players in this locker room.

"We have to use that experience and use that confidence from being the No. 1 team all year and carry it into the playoffs."

The Hawks got great goaltending from start to finish from Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, though Emery's lower body injury has to be a concern going into the playoffs.

The defense also has been improved and got a second wind when coach Joel Quenneville changed up the pairings for the March 31 game in Detroit.

The Hawks have also received great contributions from all four lines starting basically from the season's first game.

The Hawks will have a big target on their back heading into the postseason as the league's top team.

"Somebody's got to be," Quenneville said. "But we don't mind having home ice, we don't mind playing at the United Center. It's a special place and the crowd this year has been unbelievably supportive. Hopefully we can take advantage."

LeBlanc gets good reviews:

Take away his second shift of the game when he lost goal scorer Nail Yakupov in the slot, and Drew LeBlanc's NHL debut couldn't have gone any better Wednesday. LeBlanc got stronger as the game went on, skating mostly with Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.

"He got better every shift," Quenneville said. "I thought first period just OK, the second period you could see him improve, third period he had some high quality stuff that didn't go in. But you could see that he saw plays, makes plays, anticipates on the offensive side. I just think that he did very well."

It's too bad for the Hawks that LeBlanc is not eligible for the playoffs because he was signed after the trade deadline.

Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.

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