The Chicago Blackhawks will play the Los Angeles Kings in their final game of the 2017 regular season on Saturday afternoon, but all eyes will be on other games as the team awaits the identity of their first round playoff opponent.
As things stand going into Saturday’s action, there are three teams that the Blackhawks could potentially play in the first round of the postseason. The Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators are currently tied for the two Western Conference wild card spots, with each team sitting at 94 points, and the St. Louis Blues are one point ahead at 95 points.
All three teams will be in action on Saturday, but there is a possibility that the Blackhawks still won’t learn the identity of their opponent until Sunday. That’s because the Blues still have one game remaining on their schedule, and if they go into Sunday’s game behind Nashville and Calgary, they would have an opportunity to jump back ahead with a victory in their final game.
So what are the different scenarios in play? To answer that, we’ve assembled a breakdown of how things could shake out over the season’s final two days.
Blackhawks vs. Blues
This scenario is by far the most far-fetched. In order for the Blackhawks to play the Blues, St. Louis would not only have to lose its final two games, but Nashville and Calgary would both have to win their final games on Saturday. If the Blues get even just one point in the standings in the two games, then they would be in the clear and would face Minnesota in the first round of the postseason.
Blackhawks vs. Flames
The Flames currently hold the tiebreaker over the Predators by virtue of having more regulation and overtime victories. If they win their final game of the season on Saturday against San Jose (who will be playing Edmonton in the first round of the postseason), then the Flames clinch the top wild card spot and would play Anaheim in the first round of the postseason.
If they lose their game, in regulation or in overtime, and if the Predators win their game against Winnipeg on Saturday night, then Calgary would face the Blackhawks in the first round.
Blackhawks vs. Predators
This is the scenario that would currently be in effect if the season ended today, and Nashville will need some help if they are going to avoid playing Chicago in the first round.
If Nashville wins and Calgary loses in any fashion Saturday, then the Predators would be off the hook. Even if Nashville and Calgary both win, there is still an outside chance the Predators could avoid the Blackhawks, but that would only occur if the Blues lose their remaining two games, which will be played against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Colorado Avalanche.
Whichever team ends up playing the Blackhawks will likely begin the postseason at the United Center on Thursday night, as the Chicago Bulls will play a home game on the night the NHL playoffs start on April 12.