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Photograph: CC/Flickr/Jamie McCaffrey

Chicago Blackhawks playoff guide for the bandwagon fan

By Clayton Guse
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The Chicago Blackhawks will kick off their 2016 playoff run on Wednesday with a first round series against the St. Louis Blues. With everything else going on in the city (especially in the realm of sports), it can be a bit difficult to keep up with Chicago's reigning champs. But even if you haven't paid attention to a second of hockey this season, you should still be able to enjoy the good fun that is the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Whether you're a perennial postseason bandwagon fan or have no idea how hockey even works, we've got you covered. Here's a quick explainer that should make other people think that you're at least marginally familiar with the Hawks.

The Blackhawks are a professional hockey team that's based in Chicago

The Chicago Blackhawks were founded in 1926, at which point they became one of the "Original Six" teams in the National Hockey League. Since 1994, the team has played its home games at the United Center, which is often referred to by its nickname "Madhouse on Madison." The team is owned by liquor mogul Rocky Wirtz, who has been largely credited for the team's success since taking ownership in 2007.

Talking point: "Boy, I sure am glad that Rocky Wirtz's dad died."

The NHL Playoffs have four best-of-seven rounds

The Hawks' series against the Blues will be a "best-of-seven," meaning that whichever team is the first to win four games will advance to the next round. If they beat two other opponents in the same format, they'll advance to the Stanley Cup finals where they'll vie for a chance at the championship. 

Talking point: "There's a lot of hockey left to play, and a lot of beer left to drink."

In 2015, the Hawks won their sixth championship in team history, and third in six years

Over the past six years, the Blackhawks have unquestionably been the most dominant team in hockey. The club won Stanley Cup titles in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The Stanley Cup is hockey's greatest prize. Unlike other major American sports leagues, the NHL has just one trophy that rotates every year between the league champions. After defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in the finals and winning the whole shebang in 2010, the Blackhawks were forced to get rid a lot of their more expensive players. They failed to make it back to the Stanley Cup Finals until 2013, when they beat the Boston Bruins in six games, famously scoring two goals in 17 seconds in the final minute to clinch the title. Last year, the Hawks won it all again, taking down the Tampa Bay Lightning—also in six games.

Talking point: "Aw man, that was crazy, but not as crazy as game six in Boston a couple of years ago."

The Blackhawks have a roster of studs

The Hawks' captain is Jonathan Toews (his last name is pronounced "Tayves"). He's been a key piece of the team's last three titles. This season, Patrick Kane became the first American-born player to lead the league in scoring, which is a pretty big deal. Marian Hossa is a 37-year-old player from Slovakia who has also been a key part in the team's run of championships. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith have long been anchors of the team's defense (though be careful when cheering for Keith—he got suspended last month for illegally smacking an opponent in the face with his stick). Remember these names and you'll at least be able to keep up with some Blackhawks banter at the bar.

Talking point: "Toews' jawline makes me squirm, and Hossa is a Slovak god."

The Hawks are looking to be the first NHL team to win back-to-back championships in 18 years

Hockey is less predictable than pretty much any major American sport, and no team has been able to win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles since the Detroit Red Wings pulled off the feat in 1998. The Blackhawks have managed to keep almost every key player that led them to a title last year, and are looking pretty good going into the playoffs this year. 

Talking point: "If the Hawks don't repeat this year, I'm going to hide in my room until September."

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