The Chicago Blackhawks went into Friday night’s game hoping to get a victory to keep their slim hopes of a President’s Trophy alive, and that’s exactly what they did as they beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 at the United Center.
That victory gives the Blackhawks a big boost in their quest to not only win that prestigious trophy, but it also gives them a nearly insurmountable lead over the Minnesota Wild in the race for the best record in the Western Conference as well.
So where exactly do the Blackhawks stand after their win? Who would they play in the postseason if the playoffs began today?
To answer those questions, here is today’s installment of our Blackhawks Playoff Update series.
Where Things Stand Now:
With their victory over the Blue Jackets, the Blackhawks are now at 107 points on the season, and they have now opened up a nine point lead over the Wild in the Central Division race.
To make things even better, the Blackhawks have now guaranteed that they will finish with a better record than any team in the Pacific Division, and they only need to get two more points in the standings to clinch a division championship and home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
The win also puts the Blackhawks three points behind the Capitals for the top seed in the entire NHL, and the Blackhawks will have to send a gift basket to the Arizona Coyotes, who knocked off the Capitals 6-3 on Friday night out in the desert.
Who the Blackhawks Could Play in the First Round:
If the season were to end today, the Blackhawks would play the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs, as the Predators are currently two points behind St. Louis in the race for the third spot in the Central Division standings.
While the race appears to be largely between Nashville and St. Louis at this point to see who will play the Blackhawks in the first round, there is still a chance they could play a team from the Pacific as well. The Calgary Flames currently hold the top wild card spot, and they have a three point lead over Nashville in that category with only four games remaining on their schedule.
The Flames are also just one point behind the San Jose Sharks, meaning that at this moment there is still a reasonable chance that the Blackhawks could play any one of four teams that are teetering on the edge between a divisional playoff berth and a wild card berth into the postseason.
What’s Next in the Race?
The Wild will next take to the ice on Saturday afternoon when they take on the Predators at Bridgestone Arena. If the Wild lose the game in regulation, then the Blackhawks will wrap up the division championship and will get home ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
If the Wild end up winning in regulation, then the Blackhawks will have an opportunity to clinch the division on Sunday when they play the Boston Bruins at the United Center. A win of any kind would give the Blackhawks the division title.
As for Washington, their road to wrap up the President’s Trophy doesn’t get any easier on Sunday, when they travel to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets in a battle of two of the top teams in the East. Despite losing to Chicago Friday, the Blue Jackets still have a slim hope of clinching the top overall seed in the East, but they’ll certainly need a win Sunday to keep those hopes alive.