After the Blackhawks won a very pivotal game against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday, they find themselves left with three more games to overtake Colorado for second in the Central Division, and possibly even challenge the Blues for first. Challenging the Blues will be just that, a challenge. St. Louis is six points (111) over the Blackhawks (105), so in order for that to happen, the Blackhawks need wins in their final three games, and the Blues would have to lose all of their remaining four games in regulation. A more realistic goal is to pass the Avalanche for 2nd, and home ice in the first round.
The Avalanche lead the Hawks by only two points (107), and they also have four games left. Colorado has seemingly had the Blackhawks number this year, beating them in regulation 3 times and overtime once in five games. The Hawks one win came in a 7-2 blowout. The Avs are the team most likely to face the Hawks in the first round. Although they lost Olympian Matt Duchene to injury and he is set to be out definitely for the remaining regular season, and possibly all the way through the first round, the Avs will still be a tough opponent to face. It would really help the Blackhawks if they were able to secure home ice.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Another objective for this final week is finding unity with compromise. The Blackhawks have won all three of their games so far without their captain Jonathan Toews, and winger Patrick Kane. There is one line in particular that has been performing very well, especially in the last two games. That line consists of 2013 playoff hero Bryan Bickell, trade deadline acquisition Peter Regin, and recently recalled Jeremy Morin. Morin has spent most of the season with the Rockford Ice Hogs in the AHL. He went on a 13 game point streak earlier this season with Rockford, in which he had 11 goals and 9 assists. Bryan Bickell has been relatively quiet this season putting up 11 goals and 3 assists, but in recent games he has shown that he can contribute to this teams playoff run exactly as he did last year. Peter Regin has been in and out of the lineup for the Blackhawks since being acquired from the New York Islanders just prior to the trade deadline. Once Kane and Toews return for the playoffs, which is expected, some players will lose their chances. Joakim Nordstrom who has been manning the wing on the fourth line is a likely candidate, with the other one most likely being Morin. In my opinion, Morin should continue to get an opportunity which would once again knock Regin out of the lineup. Either way, the Blackhawks need to use this week to determine who stays and who goes for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And lastly, the Blackhawks simply need to win. The three games remaining are against the Montreal Canadians, the Washington Capitals, and the Nashville Predators. The Hawks lost to the Canadiens 2-1 on an overtime game winner by Andrei Markov. They opened the season at home against the Washington Capitals. After the banner raising ceremony the Blackhawks won a high scoring affair 6-4. The Predators have beaten Chicago 3 times so far this season, with only one win coming from the Hawks in the four games played between the two teams. If Chicago is to gain momentum going into the Stanley Cup playoffs, these are the games that they must win.
As the regular season winds down, the Hawks are gearing up for another run for the Stanley Cup. This last week will definitely be a test of endurance and will, and could potentially be the confidence booster that the Hawks need to get them over the hump and on a magical campaign through the 2014 post season.