By now I have beaten into the ground how hard the remaining 4 games are for the Blackhawks but incase you have missed it they play in Montreal then host the Blues before an away and home with the Redwings to end the season. But what about the teams they are going against in this race for a playoff spot. I'm going to break down the road ahead for the teams still in the running for a playoff spot and those fighting for positioning. I am going to ignore all tie-breaking because a lot of those can still change.
Trailing the Hawks
The defending champs are trying to fight off two teams for the 8th spot in the Calgary Flames and the Dallas Stars. Currnetly the Hawks hold a 3 point lead on the Stars with both teams having 4 games left while the Flames trail Chicago by just 1 point but only have 2 games remaining.
The Hawks control their fate here. They take care of business and they are in.
Calgary takes on the last place Oilers on Wednesday before finishing the season Saturday against Vancouver. Both games are at home. If they happen to win both it will give them 95 points which means the Hawks would just have to get 4 out of a possible 8 points so 2 wins or 4 OT loses will do it to eliminate the Flames. It is possible by the end of Wednesday's games that we won't have to worry about Calgary but if they linger the Hawks will know Sunday what they have to do.
Now to the bigger threat, the Dallas Stars. They have a very easy schedule they play the Bluejackets Tuesday then a home & away series with the Avs before finishing the season Sunday night up in Minnesota. The Stars trail the Hawks by 3 points so if they win all 4 of their games it would give them 97 points. Chicago will have to win at least 3 games if they want to hold off Dallas. The Hawks hopefully can make that final game meaningless by taking care of business first otherwise they will be some finger nailing biting Sunday night waiting to see if the Wild can knock off the Stars.
Can they catch them?
The question is can the Hawks avoid a first round matchup with Vancouver. With the way they have been playing I prefer to worry about just getting into the playoffs but it's possible they might be able to avoid being the 8th seed.
The first team they gotta pass are the Ducks. Anaheim is the loser of 2 straight and unlike the Hawks only have 3 games remaining and only lead the defending champs by 1 point. The "Mighty" Ducks face off against the Sharks who are fighting with Detroit for the 2 seed and then play a home & away series with the Kings who are trying to clinch home ice in the first round. If they happen to win out then Chicago would also need to win out. I'd put my money on the Hawks before I'd bet on the Ducks winning out. So if they do hold off the Flames and Stars there is a good chance they might be able to catch the Ducks for the 7th seed and possibly face off against the Wings or Sharks.
Could they climb higher? Maybe but it might be asking a lot for the Hawks to catch last year's first round matchup. The Predators have 3 games left and lead them by 3 points. If you thought the Ducks schedule was hard well just flip it where Nashville is playing 3 teams who have nothing to play for. They host the Trashers and Bluejackets before ending the season down in St. Louis. Unlike the Ducks, Nashville controls their fate and might even be able to move up the ranks as they only trail the Kings and Coyotes by 1 point.
So unless the Stars, Hawks, or Ducks just crash and burn it's going to be very tough for the Flames to make it. The Hawks could climb as high out of the 8th seed but anything higher then 7th will be tough. Unless they make a huge run and everyone else falls they will play either San Jose, Detroit or Vancouver in the first round. The hope is to have forward Patrick Sharp back this weekend to play against the Wings while center Dave Bolland still doesn't have a time table to return so my guess he could see him second round at the earliest. It's going to be a very interesting week.