The Chicago Blackhawks are quickly finding themselves on the outside looking in for the NHL playoffs. While they currently hold the final spot for the playoffs in the Western Conference, they sit staring at tough competition to stay there.
In the last six games of the season, the Blackhawks will have to face four teams that are higher in the rankings than they are. The other two teams set to face them are the St. Louis Blues and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both of these teams have given problems to the Hawks earlier in the season. They have the edge on the series 3-2 against both of these teams.
After a surge of passion and drive from the Blackhawks to storm up the rankings, it appears they have lost a little step. This can be accredited to the loss of ice time for both Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp. While other players have kept up the pace and done their part, these two players are clearly missed. Together they had combined for 49 goals and 56 assists this season. Those numbers are irreplaceable.
This does not mean that the Blackhawks are relegated to sitting at home this postseason. They still have their shot at retaining the last spot. While the battle will be hard-fought, the season will most likely come down to the Detroit Red Wings.
The Dallas Stars are the team looking to bump Chicago out of the playoffs. They have the schedule to do so as well. They do face the difficult Kings, Ducks and Sharks in the next two weeks, but they also face the Blue Jackets, Avalanche and Wild. Those last three teams are all below the Stars in the rankings.
It is very plausible that the Blackhawks will have to keep pace with the Dallas Stars to make the playoffs. This will come down to the Blackhawks winning one of the final two games of the season, both of which are scheduled against the Red Wings.
On April 8, the Hawks will take on the Wings in Detroit. On April 10, the Hawks will come back home to the Madhouse on Madison to play the Red Wings for the final game of the regular season. These two games could have even more importance to the Blackhawks than just making the playoffs.
If the Chicago squad can step up their game and take some victories in these final two weeks, it is possible for them to move up in the rankings to seventh place. The Anaheim Ducks face stiff competition for the last six games and could find themselves sliding to eighth place.
If this were to happen, this puts the Blackhawks matched up against the Red Wings for Round 1 of the playoffs. Those last two regular season games could end up being a preview of the postseason.
No matter which way it goes, one thing is certain. With the importance of the final two games and the rivalry between the Detroit and Chicago squads, those games will be the best games of the entire NHL season.
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