EDMONTON -- While not the trophy they originally had their sights on, it’s one the Chicago Blackhawks will definitely take en route to the ultimate prize.
The Blackhawks on Wednesday clinched the Presidents’ Trophy with a 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers.
By posting the league’s best record, the Blackhawks will have home-ice advantage throughout the NHL playoffs.
“To start out the way we did, have the start that we had, and to keep playing consistently, is an amazing thing for our team,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “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,” he said. “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 win gave the Blackhawks 75 points on the season with two games left to play. The Pittsburgh Penguins were the only team capable of catching the Blackhawks heading into Wednesday’s play, three points back with two games left on their schedule.
The Blackhawks had long since claimed top spot in the Western Conference.
"The start of our year really put us in a great spot, but the consistency has been there as well. I congratulate the guys, they deserve what they got,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.
"Everybody had a hand in it, everybody contributed. It was a real, good team effort across the board. But I don't think we want to get too excited; we have some serious work to do still."
History has shown winning the Presidents’ Trophy can be a double-edged sword. Only twice in the last decade has a team gone on to claim top spot in the regular season, then win the Stanley Cup. The Detroit Red Wing completed the double in 2002, then again in 2008.
The Vancouver Canucks, who won the Presidents’ Trophy the past two seasons, fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Kings last spring and lost in the Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins the year before.
“That’s not something that we think about or we’re too concerned with,” said Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp. “We’re proud of the fact we’re the top team in the regular season. But that’s over with now and we’re focusing on Game 1 of the playoffs.”
The Blackhawks will open the playoffs against the eighth-seed in the Western Conference standings, which has yet to be determined.
They’ll close out their regular season at home at the United Center against the Calgary Flames on Friday and in St. Louis against the Blues Saturday.
“Somebody’s got to be the top team,” said Quenneville. “We don’t mind having home ice. We don’t mind playing at the United Center; it’s a special place.
“The crowd this year has been unbelievably supportive and, hopefully, we can take advantage of it if need be.”