The Chicago Blackhawks kicked off their final week of the regular season in style on Sunday afternoon, knocking off the Boston Bruins 6-4 in what was a surprisingly difficult affair at the United Center.
So where does that leave the Blackhawks in the race for playoff positioning in the Central Division?
What Happened Sunday:
The Blackhawks’ victory not only allowed them to keep pace with the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, but it also pushed them to a seven-point edge over the Nashville Predators, meaning that the Hawks are guaranteed to finish in the third slot or better in the Central.
With the fear of dropping into a wild card spot dismissed, the Hawks are now focused on catching the Blues, but that scenario became slightly more difficult on Sunday night as the Blues beat the Colorado Avalanche.
That victory puts St. Louis just two points behind Dallas (with a game in hand) in the standings, and gives the Blues a four-point lead over the Blackhawks with three games to play.
Here’s Where They Stand:
Dallas 48-23-9 (105 pts.) 2 games remaining
St. Louis 47-23-9 (103 pts.) 3 games remaining
Chicago 46-26-7 (99 pts.) 3 games remaining
The Blackhawks are going to need a little bit of help if they’re going to catch St. Louis, but they still have their own opportunity to affect the outcome in the Central. The Blues play again on Monday night, taking on the Arizona Coyotes, and if they lose that game in regulation, then the Blackhawks could conceivably tie things up in the division on Thursday night when they battle St. Louis at the United Center.
The good news for the Blackhawks in that scenario: they currently hold the tiebreaker over their bitter rivals in the standings. The Blackhawks have a 45-42 edge in regulation/overtime victories this season, meaning that if the two teams finish in a tie in the standings, the Hawks would get the higher seed and would get home-ice advantage in the series.
The Blackhawks also play the Coyotes this week, and then wrap up the season with games against St. Louis on Thursday and against Columbus on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Blues will take on the Coyotes Monday before wrapping things up against Chicago and the Washington Capitals.
Pacific Division Update:
The Blackhawks may not have to play a Pacific Division foe until the Western Conference Final (if they make it that far, of course), but things just got a bit more interesting out on the West Coast, as the Anaheim Ducks have now moved a point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the top spot in that division.
The Ducks haven’t had much success against their Freeway Face-Off rivals in recent years, but with each team having four games to go, things are certainly going down to the wire in the battle for home-ice advantage in that division.