Chicago Blackhawks Clinch Central Division, Top Seed In West

By Brandon Newberry
Mar 31, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72), second from left, celebrates after he scores a goal with Chicago Blackhawks left wing Richard Panik (14) and Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) during the first period of their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Artemi Panarin (72), second from left, celebrates after he scores a goal with Chicago Blackhawks left wing Richard Panik (14) and Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) during the first period of their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /
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On March 1st, the Chicago Blackhawks were sitting 5 points behind the Minnesota Wild in the race for Central Division. Fast forward to April 1st, and the Blackhawks now own a 9-point lead over the Wild and with the Wild loss this afternoon, the Hawks have clinched the Central Division championship for the 16th time in franchise history and the first time since the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

The Blackhawks were fortunate enough to not only play well for the month of March, posting an 11-3-2 record, but they greatly benefitted from the Minnesota Wild’s brutal stretch of hockey that has earned them a 4-11-2 record since the beginning of March. While the seeding is now officially locked up for the Hawks, questions remain about who their first round opponent will be with the Preds, Blues and Flames all still possible first round opponents.

What is known for the Blackhawks, however, is that they’ll have home ice advantage all the way through the Western Conference Final and that’s a statistic that shouldn’t be taken lightly if you’re a Hawks fan. Under Coach Q, the Hawks are 11-1 in playoff series’ in which they have had home ice advantage. The one loss was the heartbreaking series against the Kings in the 2014 Western Conference Final when the Hawks lost in overtime of Game 7.

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As mentioned previously, the Blackhawks have most recently clinched the division in 2013 and before that, they did so in 2010, both which are years where the Blackhawks eventually went on to win the Stanley Cup. Taking it a step further, the Blackhawks have won 50 games in a season for only the second time in franchise history, the only other time being the 2009-2010 campaign.

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Now that the Blackhawks have locked up the Central Division and the top seed in the Western Conference, there really isn’t much left to play for. At 107 points, the Blackhawks could theoretically catch and pass the Capitals who are sitting at 110 points with a game in hand. Doing so would guarantee the Blackhawks home ice throughout the duration of the playoffs including the Stanley Cup Final, but that doesn’t seem very likely.

The Blackhawks have four games remaining on the season and it’s fair to wonder just how much the starters and star players are going to see the ice in those last four games. In a perfect world, Quenneville would be able to rest his players to ensure they are healthy and ready to go for the playoffs. However, there are several players hitting their hot streak and you’d love to see them continue that heading into the playoffs.

The Blackhawks next take the ice at home for an early matinee against the Boston Bruins on Sunday morning.

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