Two in a row.

Sounds so simple, doesn't it?

It's not.

When the Blackhawks take the ice against the Blues in Game 1 of their first round NHL playoff series Thursday night in St. Louis, they will embark on a journey they hope will conclude with them as the first team since 1998 to hoist the Stanley Cup as repeat champions.

Capturing consecutive Cups has become as elusive as spring in Chicago in 2014 and the Hawks know that as well as any team after coming up short just three seasons ago in an effort to repeat the feat from 2010.

Failing to nab two titles in a row isn't limited to the ice. Except for the NBA, repeat titles are rare the last couple of decades.

Major League Baseball hasn't had a team repeat since the Yankees reeled off three straight World Series championships in 1998-2000. The Patriots were the last NFL team to win two straight Super Bowls in 2004-05.

Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, only Duke (1991 and '92) and Florida (2006 and '07) have consecutive titles. College football is more convoluted because of many co-champions throughout the years, but in the BCS era that began in 1998, only Southern California (2003-04) and Alabama (2011-12) have gone back-to-back.

The NBA has shown less parity with 21 of 67 championships being of the repeat variety. Since 1986, there have been 11 repeat titles among five teams, most notably the Bulls' three-peats from 1991-93 and 1996-98.

The only other major professional Chicago team to claim two championships in a row? The Cubs in 1907 and 1908.

So what's the deal with the modern NHL, where no team since the Scotty Bowman-led Wings in '98 has won two Cups in a row?

"There are a lot of good teams, that's what it comes down to," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "There are a lot of hungry teams ... in the league and a lot of good players. ... It just comes down to the team that plays the best hockey wins. I don't think it's much more complicated than that."

Added teammate Patrick Sharp, who like Keith was a member of the Hawks' Cup teams in 2010 and '13: "You look at the two years we've won: We could have been out in a couple of those series. There's such a fine line between winning and losing every game and every series that you have to be ready to play from the first game. Even those years that we lost in the first round, you could say we could have won the series as well. Regular-season matchups go out the window. Higher seeds-lower seeds goes out the window. It comes down to the coaches and players competing on the ice."

When the salary cap was introduced into the NHL for the 2005-06 season, things became much more difficult. The Hawks lost 10 players to a cap purge during the summer of 2010 after winning their first Cup in 49 years. It took them three seasons to recover, a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things.

"(There's) a lot of parity in the league and everybody wants to be champions - that's what makes playoff hockey so exciting and so unpredictable," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "A lot of teams this year, for sure, think they can win the Cup.

"We're in a much better position this year than when we defended it last time, when we basically were in a sprint of 30 games to try to make the playoffs. We positioned ourselves well (in '14) and approach the playoffs here on a good note. Everybody's ready to go."

Benefiting the Hawks this time around is a group that has experienced both the euphoria of winning and the agony of early elimination. The current group is comprised mostly of the same players who helped the Hawks roll to the Cup last June, and seven of them had their name engraved on the trophy in 2010 as well.

"The incentive to win, the drive to win is always there - it doesn't matter how many times you have lifted the Cup," Sharp said. "I feel like going through it a second time, you learn a lot more during the playoff run. In 2010 there were so many ups and downs ... (and) I was living and dying with every emotion. The second time through I was more even-keeled. You understand the work that goes into it."

Said Quenneville of the challenge that wasn't met in '11, a year after winning the Cup: "The expectations that year and this year are kind of comparable. Everybody likes our team, everybody believes we can win a championship, but I don't feel the weight of the world that 'Hey, we have to win, we have to win, we have to win.' But we're all excited about the challenge."

MCT