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 Winning divisions, and even gaining home ice advantage, has been replaced by getting healthy and maintaining a playoff position without exerting every ounce of energy between now and the end of the regular season on April 7.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.
- Neal suspended five games for kneeing Marchand in the head 154
- Report: Dion Phaneuf will face hearing for hit on Kevan Miller 98
- Bruins coach admits Thornton crossed the line, slams Pens for not being ‘truthful’ 120
- Lecavalier out 3-4 weeks with non-displaced fracture in back 8
- Islanders players hold closed-door meeting after ninth straight loss 15
- Penguins’ Neal has phone hearing for knee on Bruins’ Marchand 90
- Shawn Thornton confirms hearing with NHL Department of Player Safety (Updated) 88
- Video: Penguins’ Neal knees Bruins’ Marchand 69
- Penguins announce Brooks Orpik ‘alert and conscious’ (Updated) 47
- Shawn Thornton: ‘People could probably criticize that I’m a little too honorable’ 78
- Video: Penguins’ Orpik stretchered off ice; Bruins’ Thornton given match penalty (182)
- Neal suspended five games for kneeing Marchand in the head (154)
- Pens put Orpik on IR (128)
- Bruins coach admits Thornton crossed the line, slams Pens for not being ‘truthful’ (120)
- Report: Dion Phaneuf will face hearing for hit on Kevan Miller (98)