Playoffs are right around the corner for the NBA and NHL, and both the Bulls and the Blackhawks are in the thick of things.
The Bulls are pretty much locked in at the number four seed going into the playoffs and will most likely have another first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets–this time with home court advantage for the Bulls. Last year, the Bulls won the series in a decisive game seven on Brooklyn’s own court.
This year, the Bulls lead the season series 2-1 but dropped the most recent matchup by 16 points. The biggest difference this year, though, will be the continued stellar play of Joakim Noah coupled with this year’s addition of back-up point guard D.J. Augustin. The Bulls defensive intensity will certainly be challenged by a Brooklyn team that has guys who are not afraid to shoot.
If the Bulls make it past the first round, which they should without much difficulty, they will then face the winner of the one and eight seed matchup. Both seeds are not by any means locked in as of April 9. The Heat and Pacers are still battling for that one seed, while New York sits two games behind Atlanta for the eight seed.
As for the Blackhawks, things are nowhere near set in stone. With St. Louis holding on to a two-point lead for the number one seed, anything could happen. The Hawks virtually need to win out their two final games, April 11 and 12, if they want to have home ice advantage in the first round. From a fan’s perspective, I would much rather see the Hawks take on St. Louis or San Jose in the first round over Colorado. Colorado won the regular season series 4-1.
The big thing to keep in mind is that the Blackhawks have finished the home stretch of the regular season without two of their top players in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of who will be back for the first playoff game, rested and with fresh legs for the playoff push. Do not be surprised either to see major contributions from recently called up Jeremy Morin who has been filling in with the recent injuries to the top lines.
No matter how it ends up, both Chicago teams should be able to make a strong push in the postseason as the Bulls look to get past the Heat for the first time since the Big Three came to South Beach. On the ice, the Blackhawks will begin the real pursuit of defending the Cup and keeping it in Chicago for another year.