A playoff atmosphere has returned to the United Center for Blackhawks games this season, but unfortunately for the team and its fans, the playoffs will have to wait another year.
The Nashville Predators knocked off the St. Louis Blues 3-2 Thursday night, giving them 91 points, which is one more point than the Blackhawks can possibly get even if they win their final two games this season.
While the Hawks have missed the playoffs in nine of the last ten seasons, their 86 points so far are a marked improvement over the 71 they earned all of last season.
They are 6-3-1 in their last ten games, and they have gained invaluable experience by playing such important, late-season games.
In recent years, games at this point had no meaning, as the club had already long since been eliminated from postseason contention. But this year is different.
Eleven times this season, the United Center has been sold out, including last night's 6-2 win over the rival Red Wings in front of a crowd of 21,365 fans.
The team may have missed out on their goal of qualifying for the playoffs, but the experience gained by playing playoff-atmosphere games will certainly benefit the young players on this team for the future.
The Blackhawks will finish their season with their final home game of the year tomorrow night against Nashville, and a Sunday road game at Detroit.