CHICAGO- The Blackhawks are now officially half way through their longest home stand in Franchise history – Eight games straight in the Madhouse. After four games the Hawks have gone 2-0-2, losing to the Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks while still managing to grab a point in both. Against their Eastern Conference opponents the Hawks fared much better, grabbing two points in each win over the New Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins in probably the Hawks best shootout performance so far this season.
The Hawks have quietly cruised through their last six games going 4-0-2, grabbing ten of the twelve points available – all the while improving to 18-0-0 when leading after two periods. While it may seem that the situation in Chicago is more dire than I’m alluding to, the Hawks continue to not only keep pace with their Central division foes, but remain in a prime position to pounce on St. Louis, if not even Nashville at some point.
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This last week has been quite exciting for the Central Division. Not only did it see blockbuster trades for two of the top five teams, but we also saw the Central Division take over the top 2 spots in the league – Nashville (82 pts) and St. Louis (78 pts). The rest of the division is close but in different ways – the Hawks (74 pts) sit comfortably in third, while six points ahead of the Jets (68 pts) who hold down the first of the two wild card spots.
The Minnesota Wild (63 pts) and the Dallas Stars (60 pts) may be far behind in the Central, but still have a shot at the second Wild Card position which is currently occupied by the Calgary Flames (65 pts). Interestingly enough, it’s possible for five Central Division teams to find their way into the post season. Which could end up forcing the defending Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings (62 pts) out of the picture. Should that happen, it’d mark the first time a defending Champion missed the playoffs since the Carolina Hurricanes failed to do so in 2007.
So here we stand… twenty five games left to play, four points behind the Blues, eight points behind the Predators, but the real question remains… does anyone in Chicago really care? As it seemed to become the yearly trend, the Hawks began this season as the odds on favorite to return the Cup to Chicago and they still sit atop Vegas with odds of 11-2. Followed closely by Anaheim (7-1), Nashville (9-1), Pittsburgh (10-1) and St. Louis (10-1).