Can the Blackhawks make it to the playoffs?

Can the Blackhawks make it to the playoffs?

The simple answer: yes, they can. The season is not so far gone that it's impossible - yet.

But the more important question is: will they?

A little over four months ago, when the season began, it was a question mark, but the team reassured sports writers and fans alike that it was "unthinkable" and "ridiculous" to think that the team which had, just a few months earlier, hoisted the Stanley Cup over Philadelphia ice, might not make it back to the new season's playoffs.

Fast forward to February.

The Blackhawks now sit 11th in the Western Conference, 3rd in the Central Division, three spots out of playoff contention, with a 29-22-6 record and 64 points. The WC teams are constantly jockeying for position, and Chicago has a couple games in hand. However, with the 8th-position team having 68 points, it's going to take more than just one win - the game in hand - to get back into the running for a playoff spot.

At current projections, it will take 96 points just to be the 8th-place team in the West. (By comparison, the Eastern Conference is on track for it taking only 88 points to qualify for 8th place.)

Right now, Chicago is on track for 92 points with 25 games to go, so in order to reach the 96-point target, they need to win at least 16 of their remaining games and ideally push as many losses into OT as they possibly can. Additionally, it would be helpful if they took as many wins versus WC teams in regulation as possible, and if they have to give up any points in OT, give them only to EC teams - which they will face 10 times between now and April 10th.

It sounds simplistic when laid out that way, but that's the basics: Chicago needs to win slightly more than 3 out of every 5 of their final games, and they need to give away as few points to their fellow WC rivals as possible.

Their schedule won't get any easier, either: most of the teams Chicago will face are still in contention for the playoffs, and the final spots in both conferences will run right to the wire. Even the teams that fall out of playoff chances in the final push aren't going to give any breaks to the Stanley Cup defenders.

The Blackhawks have been plagued by injuries and inconsistencies throughout the season. Just when a player comes back, somebody else manages to be taken out by injury or illness. In last Friday's game, Dallas - who's been sliding down in the rankings - took out an entire forward line out during the second period: Ryan Johnson (concussion), Viktor Stalberg (shoulder), and Fernando Pisani (upper body). The Stars were playing desperate hockey - as every team fighting tooth and nail for a playoff berth is doing.

The rest of the league is beleaguered by injuries as well. Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and other teams are studded with AHL and even ECHL call-ups. It has been an unusual season across the NHL, studded with large numbers of injuries, epic bench-clearing fights, and goalie fights.

The good news: while it's going to be an uphill battle all the way, it's not impossible for Chicago to not make the playoffs - at least, not yet.

In the Blackhawks locker room, atop the door that marks the hallway that leads up to the home team bench and the ice, is a sign that says "Earn it."

If the Blackhawks can overcome everything rough and bad about this season - points they allowed to slip away; injuries; illness; rebuilding team chemistry - they can shape the remainder of the season into something remarkable, and get the opportunity to actually defend their title.

Yes, the Blackhawks will have to win a lot. They have to show that the team which has shown glimpses of last season's glory - however erratically - can pull together and make the most of what remains of the season. They need to stay healthy.

And they need to play their hearts out - for their city, their fans, and most of all, for themselves and for each other - to make it happen.

3 Comments

Fraser's picture

http://thecheckingline.com/blog/hockeybroad/chicago-blackhawks/why-black...

Yeah that's true but havnt all NHL teams been plagued by injuries this season ? And From your earlier blog you guys said a repeat will happen are you guys still aboard that ship with what's been happening lately ?

Hockeybroad's picture

No team is ever going to start off a season going, "We just can't do it this year."

I have never said the Blackhawks would win another Cup this year. What I said, if you reread my original article you linked above, that there was no reason to start off the season with a negative attitude and the assumption that the team would fail. The core of the team - the playmakers, the scorers - were still there.

My personal viewpoint is that I haven't lost faith yet that the Blackhawks will miss the playoffs. There's still plenty of season left to set this ship to rights - but it's going to take a LOT of effort to do so, as I wrote above.

On the positive side, if the past two weeks are any indication, Hossa has come back to form (after missing SO much of the season to injury) and Kane is finally looking good (also after injury).

And yes - the entire league has been ridiculously plagued by injuries. As I stated in my article above - the league is currently studded with AHL and even some ECHL call-ups.

Fraser's picture

yeah my bad about that i didn't mean to say you said they would , and yeah its ridiculous this has been an exciting and injury troubling season for the NHL.