Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks Have Solid Playoff Footing — Really

By Colin Likas
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2015-16, at Blackhawks’ 24-game mark

Dallas: 19-5-0, 38 (C1)

Los Angeles: 14-8-1, 29 (P1)

St. Louis: 15-6-3, 33 (C2)

San Jose: 14-9-0, 28 (P2)

Chicago: 13-8-3, 29 (C3)

Arizona: 13-9-1, 27 (P3)

Nashville: 12-7-4, 28 (WC1)

Minnesota: 11-7-4, 26 (WC2)

Those standings look a little strange, don’t they? I can’t really put a finger on why. Maybe it’s just because the Coyotes are in there. That’s probably it.

Let’s break it down, team by team, as to who will still be in a playoff spot at the end of the regular season and who can buy a pair of water wings for their summer by the pool.

Nov 28, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn (14) (front) and defenseman John Klingberg (3) (center) congratulate forward Tyler Seguin (91) on his game winning goal against the Minnesota Wild during overtime at Xcel Energy Center. The Starts win 4-3 over the Wild in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars

Will they make the playoffs: Yes

This isn’t really a question, unless both Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn obtain 50-game food poisoning. And John Klingberg gets hit by a bus. Seems like a lot of unlikely scenarios, so I’m going to slot the Stars in the playoffs.

I don’t think they’ll win the Central Division (more on that later), but I can’t imagine them falling off enough to miss the playoffs entirely. The Stars score at an obscene rate, tallying about 3.5 goals per game, and their defense and goaltending have been good enough to make that stand. Even though Kari Lehtonen is out right now, he’ll come back at some point and continue being part of a completely serviceable goaltending pairing with former Blackhawk Antti Niemi. And while Klingberg and Johnny Oduya are the only blueliners you’d take to war, the Stars’ offensive prowess makes it pretty much impossible to leave them out of the prospective playoffs at this point in the season.

Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Brayden McNabb (3), center Anze Kopitar (11), center Trevor Lewis (22) and defenseman Jamie McBain (5)celebrate after they won in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center. Kings won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Kings

Will they make the playoffs: Yes

They’re back, and all other team should take notice. After missing the playoffs last season, the Kings made a few changes, getting rid of two drug-related problems and adding Milan Lucic. Their moves have worked well, as the Kings probably knew deep down they didn’t need to do much to get back to a playoff level. Jeff Carter has been great, youngsters like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are contributing, Drew Doughty is still solid from the blue line, and emo goaltender Jonathan Quick showed he still has it in robbing the Blackhawks of a win Saturday about seven different times. They’ll be fine down the stretch.

Nov 25, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) scores the game winning goal past St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) in overtime at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Blues

Will they make the playoffs: Yes

For all those hoping I was going to say the Blackhawks will win the Central, here’s where you pelt me with month-old fruit. (Why are you hanging on to month-old fruit, by the way?) Assuming the Blues can get healthy sooner rather than later (it’s pretty much down to Jaden Schwartz and Patrik Berglund at this point), they should win the Central. Luckily for everyone else, they’ll become a collective headcase in the playoffs, thanks in large part to being led by David Backes on the ice and Ken Hitchcock off it.

The Blues almost can’t miss the playoffs, even in the loaded Central, thanks to their talent throughout the lineup. It trumps the stupidity brought on by certain players. And with Jake Allen appearing to figure things out in net, their case as not only a playoff team but also a Central Division champion gets stronger. It should be noted, however, that the Blues won the Central last season. Does anyone outside of St. Louis actually remember that?

Nov 28, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks mascot SJ Sharkie jokes around with fans prior to the game against the Calgary Flames at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose Sharks

Will they make the playoffs: Sure

I don’t think the Sharks are a team built for a long playoff run — most-noticeably evidenced by having Martin Jones in net — but they play in a crappy Pacific Division. They pretty much have to make the playoffs, or we’ll have a 75-point Flames team running around punching opponents in the head instead.

It’s not as though the Sharks are bad — they still have Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns, along with a revitalized Joel Ward and some talented youngsters — but they’re just not as good as they look right now. They’ll readily put this on display in the postseason. Side note: How does Burns have 102 shots on goal from the blue line? Patrick Kane has 88 in one more game played. Pass the puck, Mountain Man.

Nov 28, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) loses his helmet in the third period of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Kings won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Blackhawks

Will they make the playoffs: Yes

It’s not like I was going to say no here, right? The Blackhawks will probably be the Central’s third-place team again, which may lead to a first-round matchup with Dallas. And while that would suck on multiple levels, the Blackhawks have shown they just need to get to the playoffs to get things going in the right direction.

Coach Q will eventually get the forward lines figured out, and Stan Bowman may very well make a move or two to get the offense and defense shored up. Corey Crawford will need to be his typical underratedly awesome self down the stretch, while Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson defy the laws of human survival on the blue line, as the Blackhawks mosey into the postseason. The Stars should beware, whether they score 500 or 501 goals in the regular season.

Nov 28, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes goalie Anders Lindback (29) makes a save during the third period against the Ottawa Senators at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Coyotes

Will they make the playoffs: No

I refuse to believe the Coyotes are good enough to maintain a playoff spot in April. Sure, they have super-rookie Max Domi leading the team in points and generally solid Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker providing a fair amount on offense, as well as Oliver Ekman-Larsson being awesome on the blue line … but this is a team led by Shane Doan and Mike Smith. Can you think of a worse leadership team? You might have to go back to the Chicago Cubs’ College of Coaches in the early 1960s for that.

The Coyotes of 2015-16 are like the Calgary Flames of 2014-15. But will the Coyotes actually make the postseason? I don’t see it. I can’t imagine the Anaheim Ducks remaining as bad as they currently are through the entire season, and I think they’ll take Arizona’s playoff spot.

Nov 25, 2015; Buffalo, NY, USA; Nashville Predators center Craig Smith (15) celebrates his goal against the Buffalo Sabres with center Mike Fisher (12) and center Colin Wilson (33) during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville Predators

Will they make the playoffs: Sure

The Predators are a strange case right now, but I think they’ll have their act together well enough by April to earn a wild-card spot. Pekka Rinne has been positively mediocre in net so far, a strange turn for the club. The Preds’ offensive ability has been just so-so after faring well under Peter Laviolette in his first season as head coach, but that’s another point that could quickly turn in favor of the Preds, especially with so much time remaining in the season.

The Predators just aren’t a No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. They can be No. 7, but not No. 8. Let’s talk a little more about that eighth spot.

Nov 28, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo addresses the team during a time out during the third period against the Dallas Stars at Xcel Energy Center. The Starts win 4-3 over the Wild in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild

Will they make the playoffs: I have no idea

The Wild are currently struggling, and I don’t see them pulling out of it to become a Central Division juggernaut. Which means they could be on the cusp of a playoff spot throughout the season. So who would they be competing with for that spot? Only the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets and Arizona Coyotes are in any position to challenge for it, and it’s very much unclear whether they actually could challenge for it.

Remember, the Wild made last season’s playoffs in large part because goaltender Devan Dubnyk had an insane run of success. He hasn’t been nearly as good so far this season, and the Wild are suffering as a result. Still, the Canucks are only near a playoff spot because they’ve taken seven points from OT losses. Winnipeg is one good goaltender away from making things work, just like Minnesota was last season. And Arizona is a youthful team that could very easily wilt in the stretch run.

So the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot is up for grabs at this point. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see two different teams enter the playoff picture between now and the end of the regular season in the Western Conference.

Next: Chicago Blackhawks' Month In Review: November

So to what conclusion does this bring us? That the Blackhawks have a fair chance to make the playoffs, but that nothing is certain this early in the season. Still, it’s fun to project how things could wind up.