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THN.com Playoff Blog: Hawks, Caps feel good, but for how long?

The Hawks and Wings take to the ice for Game 1 of the Western Conference final. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The Hawks and Wings take to the ice for Game 1 of the Western Conference final. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

A couple notes on this Canadian holiday Monday:

• As I mentioned on The Hockey News Radio Show (heard, of course, on XM Satellite Home Ice 204) Friday, the Chicago Blackhawks’ ongoing renaissance is a feel-good story for multiple reasons, but the one I haven’t seen mentioned is the happiness it has to bring battle-scarred beat reporters – such as Chicago Daily Herald sportswriter (and longtime THN correspondent) Tim Sassone – who’ve suffered through the misery of the previous decade as much as anybody.

I understand journalism isn’t up there with the Calcutta Sanitation Department in terms of professions you require a strong stomach to survive, but can anybody imagine what it’s been like to cover the Hawks throughout the late 1990s and the majority of this decade?

“All the intrigue and joy of proctology at a fraction of the salary” is the phrase that comes to mind.

• As I was watching the Washington Capitals make this sound in Game 7 of their second round series against Pittsburgh, in my head I was thinking, ‘I know these guys are disappointed, but man, they’ve been fun to watch – and damn, is it going to suck watching the collective bargaining agreement tear their roster apart in the next few years.’

Surely even the most devoted Caps fan must realize the mountainous challenge owner Ted Leonsis and GM George McPhee will face in keeping Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green – and now, Simeon Varlamov – together and appropriately compensated, especially with (a) the prospect of a shrinking salary cap not too far off the league’s horizon; and (b) the realization this team needs to improve the defensive aspect of their defense corps if they want to make it to the Eastern Conference final and beyond.

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Perhaps Washington’s ownership and management pulls a Mike Ilitch/Ken Holland, convinces somebody to play on the cheap and proves an NHL team can commit to a core of five players over the long term.

But if that’s not possible, who do you get rid of? Let’s assume moving Ovechkin, Green and Varlamov is out of the question. That leaves either Backstrom or Semin. The silky-smooth setup man, or the sniper.

If there’s ever a choice you don’t want to be wrong on, this has got to be it.

Oh, and if you’re a Hawks fan chortling at the crossroads the Capitals soon will face, guess what? Your team is next.

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THN.com's Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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