The Chicago Blackhawks finished third in the Central Division last season, looking up at the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues. Over the course of the past couple of seasons, the Blackhawks haven’t looked at winning the division as a top priority. Making the playoffs and being healthy for the playoffs have always been the main two goals.
Now with the new divisions and playoff format, winning the division should matter a bit more to the Blackhawks. Because of this new format and the Hawks finishing in 3rd in the division, they were forced to play division rival and # 2 seeded the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
If they were to gain a couple of more victories and key points, the Hawks could have played one of the two wild card teams (a weaker opponent compared to a 2nd or 3rd place division team) and had an easier first round match-up.
Also, by not winning the division and being in 2nd and 3rd, home-ice can change round by round.
While the Hawks should want to remain healthy and keep superstars like Patrick Kane 100% come playoff time, winning the division could mean better match-ups and home-ice throughout the entire playoff season.
An easy way to do this is to grab two points as much as possible. While this sounds pretty obvious, there are times where the Hawks leave points on the table in a shootout or OT. Grabbing up that extra point early in the season when the opportunity arises can help the Hawks late in season grab a division lead and let them rest their players.
The new playoff system has caused coaches to use a bit more strategy in order to get their teams in a good position for playoff hockey.
With a new season almost upon us, the Hawks have to begin looking towards the schedule and find the “easy” games where they can snag up two points. Each point early in the season can go a long way in getting the Hawks a division victory and a favorable first round match-up for the playoffs. While the Hawks can match-up against most teams in the NHL, an easier first round could mean another Stanley Cup.