Hawks fans, we’ve just rounded the corner of the regular season’s home stretch. However, after blowing out the Edmonton Oilers last night 4-1, the Colorado Avalanche, our beloved Chicago Blackhawks first round playoffs opponent, are now a full four point ahead of the Hawks in the standings. If I was a betting man outside the game of Russian roulette, I’d say the Hawks are going to be the visitors in the opening series of the post season.
However, as we know in hockey, anything is possible. As of today, both the Hawks and the Avs have three games apiece left in the 2013-2014 regular season campaign. The Blackhawks and the Avalanche have proven to be very similarly-talented teams this season, and the standings certainly indicate as much. While their backs are against the wall in terms of gaining home-ice advantage, all is not lost for the Blackhawks, and if things should fall a certain way, Chicago could still be hosting the opening round of the post season.
Let’s break it down – Here are the final three games remaining on the Hawks and Avs’ respective schedules:
4/9 vs. Montreal Canadiens – Home
4/11 vs. Washington Capitals – Away
4/12 vs. Nashville Predators – Away
4/10 vs. Vancouver Canucks – Away
4/11 vs. San Jose Sharks – Away
4/13 vs. Anaheim Ducks – Away
As we know, the Blackhawks are down to the Avalanche in the standing by four points, which means they don’t have the luxury of losing or even tieing a game, and even if they go 3-0 to finish out the regular season, is still depends on how the Avs fare in their last three contests for the Hawks to even have a shot at gaining home-ice.
That being said however, given the matchups for both teams, the Hawks have the advantage.
First and foremost, the Hawks have at least one home game, whereas the Avs are playing all games away. Additionally the Hawks are playing only one team out of three that has anything on the line, the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are currently third overall in the Eastern Conference, but are in a battle for home ice of their own with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts are just two points behind the Canadiens in the standings, so the Habs certainly have something to play for at the Madhouse on Madison tonight. The Hawks lost to the Habs in Montreal during OT in their first regular season meeting, so here’s hoping home ice is the difference for the Blackhawks this time around.
The Hawks’ other two matchups are against teams that are down and out of the playoffs: the Nashville Predators and (for the most part) the Washington Capitals. While neither of these teams are pushovers, they are certainly very beatable, especially at this point in the season. Bottom line: the Hawks don’t have any excuse to lose in Nashville or Washington D.C.
The Avalanche by contrast have a much tougher go of it in their last three outings. The only team they’ll be playing without any post season plans is the Vancouver Canucks. While the Canucks have imploded this season, given Canadian’s fanatical passion for their pastime regardless of their team’s playoff prospects, Vancouver may be a much more hostile environment at this point in the season than the Avalanche are expecting.
More importantly, the last two matchups the Avs have on their schedule are tough, pure and simple. While both the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks clinched playoff berths long ago, they are still battling to improve their post season fates. As of this post, the Sharks are just three points behind the Ducks for the Pacific Division title, and Anaheim is a mere one point behind the St. Louis Blues for the Western Conference title. Needless to say, both these Cali franchises have the opportunity to improve their standings and first round matchups in the playoffs, so neither squad is going to phone it in when the Avalanche come to town. And let’s not forget, the Sharks and the Ducks are formidable foes, bar none. Any way you slice it, the Avalanche have much together road ahead of them in this final sprint of the regular season than the Blackhawks.
Regardless of whether they start the playoffs in Chicago or Denver, the most important thing for the Hawks to worry about in their final three games of the regular season is keeping their winning streak going and taking that momentum into post season, because as we all know, momentum in the playoffs favors no venue.
FOR THE DAGGER!