If the Chicago Blackhawks have any hope of making the postseason — and the chances aren’t great at the moment — this next stretch of games will be a critical time for them to step up
Much of the NHL All-Star break has been spent wondering if the Chicago Blackhawks can hop back into the postseason race. Though the Blackhawks are just four points out of a Western Conference wild-card spot, they’re battling arguably seven teams — plus their own inconsistencies.
Chicago is in that weird cutoff point for serious postseason contenders right now. Ahead of the Blackhawks are four teams with 57 points, one with 58, one with 59 and one with 60. Below the Blackhawks and their 53 points are Edmonton (47), Vancouver (44) and Arizona (33).
So the Blackhawks are likely one more bad stretch of games away from being in an untenable position. However, they also have some critical matchups on the horizon that offer an opportunity to actually get back in this thing.
Looking over the next 13 games
This all starts tonight when the Blackhawks visit the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. Though this isn’t one of the teams the Blackhawks are really worried about catching right now — the Preds have 65 points — you can’t duff many more Central Division showdowns. This is especially true when you’re the last-place team in said division.
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After a tilt with Vancouver on Thursday (if the Blackhawks lose this, we can more or less end this discussion), there come some bouts with serious implications.
- Saturday at Calgary
- Feb. 6 vs. Calgary
- Feb. 8 vs. Dallas
- Feb. 10 at Minnesota
- Feb. 15 vs. Anaheim
- Feb. 19 vs. Los Angeles
- Feb. 23 vs. San Jose
Those are all teams that are directly competing with the Blackhawks at this time. While San Jose and Calgary presently hold Pacific Division playoff spots, that situation is very fluid thanks to the Kings and Ducks right below them.
So if the Blackhawks are going to get back into the postseason chase, they have some prime opportunities not only to garner points, but also prevent the teams in front of them from doing so.
Even better, on paper, is that five of those seven games are at the United Center. While the Blackhawks aren’t exactly playing well anywhere this season (12-10-3 at home versus 11-9-4 on the road), you’d like to think home ice at least helps as far as last change and getting the best possible matchups.
This trend really continues into March as well, with the first four games coming against San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Colorado. So we’re talking about roughly a month-long slate in which the Blackhawks can put a dent in their postseason deficit.
This starts with the Blackhawks playing well game by game, though. If they go from winning 5-0 to losing 7-2, there’s really no reason to expect they can go on a tear. This is how it’s been all season, and it’s not leading to a postseason spot. So for the Blackhawks to pull out of this tailspin, they need to perform well consistently in this next stretch of games.