While most people never want to leave Florida, the Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t get out of the Sunshine State fast enough after losing their second straight game on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In two games there, the Blackhawks allowed a combined 12 goals and gained just one point in the standings as they try to secure the top seed in the Western Conference playoff hunt.
So where do the Blackhawks stand in relation to the Minnesota Wild? Which team are they in line to take on in the first round of the postseason?
To answer that question, we’ll delve into all the scenarios in this edition of Blackhawks Playoff Update.
Where Things Stand Now:
After getting a point against the Lightning on Monday night, the Blackhawks extended their lead over the Minnesota Wild to eight points for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Wild do have a game in hand, but with only seven games remaining on their schedule, they’ll have to push extremely hard to catch back up to the Blackhawks in the standings.
The Blackhawks are still within shouting distance of getting the top seed in the entire NHL (which would guarantee home ice advantage throughout the postseason), but they would have to really push to pass the three teams standing in their way. Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins are tied with the Blackhawks at 103 points, but both teams have games in hand on Chicago. Washington currently has a three-point lead on Chicago in the President’s Trophy race, and they also have two games in hand.
Who the Blackhawks Could Play in the First Round:
The race to play the Blackhawks is still wide open, with St. Louis and Nashville currently engaged in a dogfight for third place in the Central Division. Whichever team finishes in fourth will secure a wild card spot, and if they finish behind Calgary in the standings (the Flames currently have a two point lead on the Blues for the top wild card spot), then they would have to face the top-seeded team in the West, which is currently the Blackhawks.
Even though the Blues, Flames, and Predators are the three most likely teams to face the Blackhawks in the first round, the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers are still in the mix, as both teams currently hold just a one point lead over the Flames in the race for division seeding.
What’s Next in the Race?
Minnesota has a tough home game on Tuesday night when they welcome the top team in the NHL to the Xcel Energy Center, as the Capitals head to the Twin Cities.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are off until Wednesday night, when they’ll have a tough game of their own as they head to Pittsburgh to take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.