Mar 19, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Roman Polak (46) shoots the puck against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) during the third period at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Blues 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Blackhawks are currently second place in the Central Division standing behind St. Louis. As of Sunday the Blackhawks trailed St. Louis by four points, 97 to 101. The Blues are not only first in the central but first in the Western Conference.
It is imperative that the Blackhawks catch the Blues in the Division because of the new playoff format. In the new playoff format there will still be 16 playoff teams, eight from each conference. The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams. The next four teams will be the highest point totals in each conference.
Now the division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild card team with the fewest points. While the second and third seed in each conference will square off against each. The Blackhawks are currently slated to face the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche have OWNED the Blackhawks this season. The season series was 4-1-0 in favor of the Avalanche. The Avalanche scored 3.40 per game against the Blackhawks season and only allowed 2.80 goals for this season. This is not a favorable first round matchup for the defending Stanley champions, especially since they will probably have a rusty Patrick Kane coming back for the first round. The Avalanche are also the only team that can match the Blackhawks in the speed department.
IF the Blackhawks overtook the Blues, they would have home ice advantage against an inferior Minnesota Wild team. The Wild on the season are 36-24-11, while the Avs are 44-21-6. Now the Blackhawks have not played much better against the Wild this season. The Blackhawks are 1-3-0 with a 3.00 goals for average and a 3.00 goals against average. Despite the eerily similar numbers, the Wild are not as good as the Avalanche. The Blackhawks have a better chance of advancing to the second round by playing the Wild. People should not misconstrue this statement as my lack of faith in the Blackhawks. Instead it should be viewed as a more realistic view and a realistic statement. The Wild should be easier to beat.
Another IF, is the if Blackhawks do advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and so do the St. Louis Blues, it would be more beneficial for the Blackhawks to have home ice advantage. The Blackhawks are usually pretty good on the road, but home ice advantage in the playoffs is GOLD. If anyone disagrees with that statement, they should take the Red Wings series under consideration. Game 7 was at home and the Blackhawks won. I have my doubts that Blackhawks would have been able to overcome the deficit in a road Game 7. Here is a stat: in the 16 Game 7’s during Stanley cups finals, the home team has won 13 of 16 times. It’s simple, the numbers bear it out. Home ice favors the home team.
Now IF the Blackhawks do not catch the Blues, it is not the end of the world. It would however make their life a whole lot easier if they did.