Mar 7, 2012, 8:27 PM EST
For a significant chunk of this season, the Chicago Blackhawks’ path seemed to follow the dominant one blazed by the 2010 championship model rather than the desperately scrappy edition from last year. When the Hawks were really buzzing, it appeared that the Central Division crown was one big jump ball between three or maybe even four teams.
The Hawks aren’t making any declarations but let’s face it, the goals have changed. Winning divisions, and even gaining home ice advantage, has been replaced by getting healthy and maintaining a playoff position without exerting every ounce of energy between now and the end of the regular season on April 7.
For all practical purposes the Hawks are entrenched as the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. If that holds they are on a collision course with the Pacific Division winner, which will be the easiest draw for them — by far. In fact, the Hawks currently have two more points (79 to 77) than division-leading Dallas. Chicago won’t have home-ice advantage — that goes to the division winner no matter the point totals — but no hockey observer would count them out in a playoff series against the Stars, Phoenix Coyotes or San Jose Sharks. In fact, the Hawks would probably be the favorite in at least a couple of those matchups.
In a way, it’s an interesting parallel to the East where the sixth seed is honestly probably a better draw than a fourth or fifth because of the weaker division representatives. (Of course, the gulf in talent and competence between the Pacific and Southeast is jarring, but still, it’s rather intriguing.)
Having a relatively favorable first round opponent is great and all, but as Rogers points out, the Blackhawks’ ceiling would be significantly limited without Toews.
With that in mind, you can’t blame Chicago fans for being more nervous about his health updates than day-to-day rumblings in the standings.
- Ryan Murray has knee surgery, likely done for season 0
- Washington finally signs top prospect Kuznetsov 21
- Roberto Luongo records the shutout in first game back with Panthers 27
- Steve Moore remains shocked, disgusted about Todd Bertuzzi attack 63
- Canucks’ Kassian gets three games for boarding Dillon 27
- TGIF: Why Lightning fans can be upset with St. Louis 32
- Goalie nods: Luongo’s first game back with Panthers, Neuvirth makes Sabres debut 14
- Report: Kuznetsov terminated KHL deal, headed to Washington 21
- Canucks’ Bieksa: ‘If this isn’t rock bottom, I don’t know what is’ 34
- Luongo has Twitter fun at Canucks’ expense 36
- Canucks trade Luongo to Panthers (93)
- BLOCKBUSTER: Lightning trade St. Louis to Rangers for Callahan (82)
- Kings make splash, acquire Gaborik from Columbus (72)
- Report: Canucks want center, top prospect and first-rounder for Kesler (68)
- Sabres announce Pat LaFontaine resigns as president of hockey operations (66)