Although it may be tough to look past getting swept by a team that has trailed you virtually all season, the Blackhawks need to look ahead and capitalize on some upcoming matchups.
The frustration from fans after the Chicago Blackhawks seemingly knocked themselves out of a playoff spot by losing to the Predators in back-to-back games at home is understandable. However, the Predators are one of if not the hottest team in the NHL right now, winning in seven of their last eight which includes beating the best of the central in both Tampa and Florida.
As far as the Predators series goes, it was just the wrong team at the wrong time for the Blackhawks. Prior to this series, Chicago took four out of a possible four against a very strong Florida team. Backtracking further and you get a two-game series with Tampa (and Florida again before that). All in all that’s a pretty difficult stretch.
However, the Blackhawks and Blackhawk fans need to look to the schedule ahead. Finishing out that difficult stretch requires Chicago to see a Carolina team that could overtake Tampa for the division and league.
Following that, however, is a rematch with the same Predators who occupy the fourth and final playoff spot. It’s this one-game series that the Blackhawks must find their game and continue to build off of that in order to capitalize on an important but easing schedule.
After Nashville is Dallas, another team with whom Chicago will be fighting for a playoff appearance with. Then the Blackhawks will see two teams in which they hold the season series lead at 3-2 (Columbus) and 5-1 (Detroit). Those will be must-win games of course, and given the Blackhawks’ track record with these teams, they should reasonably be able to get anywhere from five to seven points out of eight.
Meanwhile, the red hot Predators will likely have cooled off by then considering they’ll have met with Tampa, Dallas, and Carolina during that same span. At this point, Chicago and Nashville will then face each other in a three-game series.
Luckily, two of the three games will be at the United Center. It is probably safe to say at this point in the season, whoever can come away with the most points during that stretch will have the unquestionably better chance at playoffs. Chicago will have had enough time to find their game, especially considering the competition in the weeks leading up to this crucial matchup.
A healthy Kirby Dach, surging Alex DeBrincat, and MVP candidate Patrick Kane should also serve the Blackhawks well down the stretch. Whether the Blackhawks make the playoffs or not, they seem destined to be in a tight race as the end of the season draws near. Given the pre-season expectations and youthful roster, the push for playoff hockey alone is going to help this young core grow and develop.