The Chicago Blackhawks wrapped up the Central Division championship and the best record in the Western Conference on Saturday afternoon thanks to Minnesota’s loss in Nashville, but there is still plenty left to play for as the NHL season enters its final week.
The Blackhawks still have a shot at the President’s Trophy, given to the team with the best record in the NHL. Washington currently holds a three point lead over the Blackhawks for that spot with just five games remaining in their schedule, but it’s still very much in play with seven days to go in the regular season.
So how does the road in for the Capitals look as they try to fend off the Blackhawks? Who are the Blackhawks set to play in the first round of the postseason?
To answer those questions and more, dig into our Blackhawks Playoff Update.
Where Things Stand Now:
By virtue of Minnesota’s loss Saturday, the Blackhawks are Central Division champions for the first time since 2013, and they’ve secured the top spot in the Western Conference as well, meaning that they’re guaranteed home ice advantage through at least three rounds of the postseason.
Whether they’d have home-ice if they reach the Stanley Cup Final remains to be seen. The Blackhawks are three points behind Washington in the President’s Trophy race, and they’re one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets as the race remains tight up until the season’s end.
Who Would the Blackhawks Play in the First Round?
The race to face the Blackhawks in the first round is tighter than ever, as the Predators drew even with the Blues on Saturday thanks to their win over Minnesota. The Predators and Blues will also play each other on Sunday, with the loser dropping into the second wild card spot and into a first round matchup with Chicago with a week to go in the season.
St. Louis currently holds the tiebreaker over Nashville, as they have 41 regulation/overtime wins on the season, compared to just 38 for the Predators.
Even with that in mind, a Pacific Division team could still drop into the spot as well. The Oilers and Ducks are both four points clear of San Jose and Calgary with four games left to play, leaving the Sharks and Flames as two more potential first round opponents for Chicago.
As things stand now, the Flames are just one point ahead of the Blues and Predators in the standings, and the Sharks are just two points clear of the two Central Division clubs as well, creating a bit of a log-jam in the standings.
The Blackhawks will play the Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon as they continue to chase Washington for the best record in the NHL, and after that game they’ll head out for a three-game road trip to wrap up the regular season.
The Capitals will finish off the season with a grueling stretch of games, as they’ll play five times in the final eight days. Four of those games are against playoff teams (while the Blackhawks have just two such games left on their schedule), and it all starts with a tough road matchup against the Blue Jackets on Sunday evening.
After St. Louis and Nashville battle on Sunday, the road to the finish gets significantly easier for the Blues, as they play just one more game against a team in playoff contention. The Predators too will be done with playoff teams after Sunday’s tilt, but they will have to hit the road one more time as they’ll play Dallas and Winnipeg to finish off the regular season.
Finally, the Flames will finish up with a tough run of their own, as they’ll have to play two consecutive games against the Anaheim Ducks before wrapping up the season on the road against Los Angeles and San Jose next week.