Blackhawks: How the Central Division is shaking up in 2021
By Jimmy Lynch
The Chicago Blackhawks will need some luck to get into the Stanley Cup Playoffs this coming season. Yes, last game was not a good sign for how the team looks, but the idea of making the playoffs is still a possibility.
The Blackhawks are 7-2-1 in their last ten games. They have been playing some pretty good hockey and have earned their spot in the standings for it. The only issue is that the ‘Hawks have played a couple more games than a lot of their opponents due to other teams experiencing some COVID-19 issues in the past.
The ‘Hawks do not have an easy ride against any of their opponents this season, except for maybe Detroit, as Chicago has won every matchup thus far against the Red Wings. Only four teams will make it out of the Central Division, and Chicago could be one of them.
The Blackhawks made the playoffs last season, and that was just due to an incredible series against Edmonton. This season, things will not be as easy. Yes, the team has had some great play from their rookies, but the ‘Hawks will need even more to get into the playoffs this season. They will need some of the other teams in their division to have some bad games at some point this year.
How the rest of the teams in the Chicago Blackhawks’ Central Division are doing so far this season.
Carolina Hurricanes 12-3-1
The Hurricanes have taken the biggest jump forward this season, and the Blackhawks saw that a few nights ago. The Hurricanes are fast and skilled, and Chicago has a long way to go before they will be on par with them.
The Hurricanes have one of the deepest lineups in the NHL and already have nine players with at least nine points this season. To put that in perspective, the Blackhawks only have six. The Hurricanes are getting everyone involved on offense, and their defense is just as good. This is a team the ‘Hawks will want to look like in a few years.
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Florida Panthers 11-3-2
Florida has been another team with a surprisingly good start this season. While I did think they could be a top-four team going into the season, I did not realize how dominant they would be.
Like Tampa Bay, I think the Blackhawks would like a rematch against the Florida Panthers before the team decides where they truly are at in their rebuild. The team is led by Jonathan Huberdeau, with 15 assists, and they could be a sneaky pick to make it out of the Central come playoff time.
Tampa Bay Lightning 10-4-1
The Lightning are still the defending Stanley Cup Champions. At 10-4-1 and having only played 15 games, they still have a lot of hockey ahead of them. After missing most of the playoff run last season, it is nice to see Steven Stamkos lead the team with eight goals and play so well.
The Lightning have picked up right where they left off during their playoff run last season, and that is not good for the rest of the NHL as this team has one of the best power plays, penalty kills and plays some of their best hockey at five on five. Honestly, the Blackhawks are going to have their work cut out the next time they face off against Tampa Bay.
Columbus Blue Jackets 8-7-4
Columbus could make the playoffs this season. While the Jackets have not been great to start the season, they have added Patrik Laine into their lineup recently, and they will only get better with time.
It appears to be between Columbus, Chicago, and Dallas for the fourth and final wildcard spot. It is going to take a lot of hard work for Chicago to beat out the Blue Jackets as that team has some great forwards in Roslovic, Bjorkstrand, and Atkinson, as well as their amazing goaltending through the first 19 games.
Dallas Stars 5-3-4
No one really knows where the Dallas Stars are at right now. Having only played 12 games, there still is a lot of hockey ahead of Dallas before the NHL will know where they sit. Dallas is at 14 points so far this season, but after playing four more games, they could be at 22 points. That would tie them with the Blackhawks as well as still feature an additional three games in hand.
There is a lot of ground for Dallas to make up, but time is on their side. As of late, this team has not been good as they are on a five-game losing streak. The Blackhawks and Stars will face off in two weeks, and those two matchups definitely will be must watches on the calendar as the two teams played two very close games last week.
Nashville Predators 7-10-0
The Blackhawks lost their first two games of the Nashville series earlier this season, and since then, Nashville has not done much better. As of now, they are 3-7-0 in their last ten games, and they have not been great.
Out of all the teams within this division, seeing Nashville fall as fast and as they have has been shocking. The lineup still has a lot of potential, but with Juuse Saros currently at a 3.47 goals-against average, it is going to be hard for a team that struggles to score goals to win.
Detroit Red Wings 5-12-3
Lastly, the Detroit Red Wings are the one team the Blackhawks need to rely on this season. Considering the Wings have only won five games, it won’t be shocking to hear the franchise has a long way to go before finishing their rebuild.
This team will probably not move in any power rankings all season, and they are already a favorite for the first overall pick. I would rather have a shot at the playoffs though, even if the team did get swept in the first round.