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Can the Chicago Blackhawks Continue the Trend?

Barring a loss by the Chicago Blackhawks against the Nashville Predators today (8:30 p.m. Eastern Time), all first-round National Hockey League playoff series will have been tied 1-1. Let me rephrase that to let the significance of such a fact properly sink in: No one of eight teams that won their opener has been able to go up 2-0. Still not convinced? Well, I'm afraid there's little helping you then, because, frankly, that's pretty gosh darn astounding.

Of course, this means that, again assuming Chicago is able to win at least one game against Nashville, there will be no sweeps in the first round (considering that Chicago is thought to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, that isn't that much of a leap to take). That in itself isn't as rare as all eight series being tied 1-1, as you would have to go back to the 2003-2004 playoffs to find the last time all eight first-round losers avoided the brooms.

Still, that year, the Philadelphia Flyers (who won their series against the New Jersey Devils), the Boston Bruins (who lost their series against the Montreal Canadiens), the Colorado Avalanche (who won their series against the Dallas Stars), the San Jose Sharks (who won their series against the St. Louis Blues), and the Detroit Red Wings (who won their series against the Predators) all went up 2-0 at one point only to eventually concede at least one game to their opponents.

There is a sort of irony in this fact: The year just before the lockout, which was meant to usher in a new era of ultra-competitiveness in the league, was the last time that the first round (which was graced by three game sevens, by the way) had all 16 teams win at least one game.

Meanwhile, with the Tampa Bay Lightning sweeping the Habs in the second round en route to their championship that year, you would have to go back even further, to the 2002 playoffs, to find a year in which there were no sweeps at all (1991 would be the next-to-last time this happened).

However, in that year (2001-2002), four series in the first round (the Toronto Maple Leafs against the New York Islanders, the Carolina Hurricanes against the New Jersey Devils, the Vancouver Canucks against the Red Wings, and the Avalanche against the Los Angeles Kings) were characterized by a 2-0 leads by one of the teams.

So, when was the last time all eight series in the first round were tied 1-1? I can say, after going through 20-plus years of playoff brackets on Wikipedia (yes, I admit it; I use Wikipedia), that not once, since the NHL adopted the best-of-seven format in the first round (in 1987), has there ever been one year where every single first-round series has been tied 1-1.

So, bottom line? A lot of pressure on the Blackhawks right now to win tonight (even more than there was entering the playoffs, I would imagine). Of course, I'm sure that's not the history they would like to be making these playoffs. Most definitely, they would rather end a 48-year Stanley-Cup drought (47 seasons, not counting the lockout; the longest in the league). Thankfully, the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they would probably have to win tonight to stand a realistic chance anyway.

Bold prediction: Chicago beats Nashville 4-2 tonight en route to an eventual series victory. History is made! Yippee!