The Chicago Blackhawks have been idle the last two days, and remain in third place in the tightly-contested Central Division.
So who would they play if the postseason began today? What other scenarios could still be in play? We take a look at that question in today’s playoff update.
Blackhawks’ Record:44-26-7 95 pts. (3rd)
Where They Stand:
The Blackhawks are currently eight points behind the Dallas Stars for the top spot in the Central Division. The Stars won 4-1 over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night, and now have just four games remaining in the regular season, while the Hawks have five games left.
The Blues are six points ahead of the Blackhawks for second place, with the same number of games remaining. The two teams will play each other at the United Center next week.
The Predators are four points behind the Blackhawks for third place in the Central, and have now played one more game than Chicago has. The Predators lost 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, giving the Blackhawks the advantage of a game-in-hand to put more distance between themselves and the first wild card spot in the Western Conference.
What Comes Next:
Both the Stars and Predators are off on Friday night, but the Blackhawks and Blues will hit the ice in games critical to the positioning of multiple teams.
The Blackhawks will take on the lowly Winnipeg Jets on Friday night, but they’ll do so without at least one of their key players, as Duncan Keith will sit out for the match penalty he was assessed in Tuesday’s loss in Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the Blues will take on the Boston Bruins, a team desperately fighting for their playoff lives. The game will be played in St. Louis, and a win by the Blues would pretty much seal home-ice advantage for the team in the first round of the postseason, regardless of whether or not they catch and pass Dallas.
At this point, it seems that the Blackhawks are pretty much locked into the third slot in the Central Division barring a huge collapse or a big surge by Nashville. Jumping up to the top two spots was going to be tough anyway, but Tuesday’s loss and a potential Keith suspension likely render those hopes moot.
The only question that really remains is who the Blackhawks will play in the first round of the postseason. They have fared somewhat better against the Blues this season than they have against the Stars, but both teams present big challenges for a defensively-shallow Hawks squad, and the Blackhawks potentially playing without Keith early in the postseason could put a huge dent in their hopes of getting out of the first round.