By Paul M. Banks
With just one more point, the Chicago Blackhawks will clinch their first playoff appearance since 2002. With postseason action on Chicago’s West side all but assured, it’s time to look ahead.
Of course, the most boring and mind-numbing cliche in all of sports is “we don’t look ahead, we’re taking them one game at a time,” but we’re not athletes here. It’s our job as web journalists and fans to look down the road.
In all likelihood, the Hawks (41-24-11, 93 points) will hold the #4 seed in the Western Conference giving them home ice advantage over the #5 seed in the first round, which will probably be one of these three teams:
#3 Vancouver Canucks (42-25-9, 93 points) The Blackhawks have found more success in Canada this season than Bryan Adams and Celine Dion combined; owning an 11-3 record versus Canadian teams. But that doesn’t mean Chicago wants to see Vancouver in the postseason. The Canucks handled the Hawks by scores of 7-3 and 4-0 their past two meetings. The loss on Sunday was especially ugly as goaltender Roberto Luongo stymied Chicago in a 26 save shut-out. And the Hawks responded by instigating a few late fights that conveyed a sense of losing frustration and very poor sportsmanship.
#5 Calgary Flames (43-27-6, 92 points) Calgary just lost the Northwest Division lead to Vancouver; and things staying that way would be tremendously advantageous to the Hawks. Chicago is 4-0 versus the Flames this season- outscoring them 19-7. Calgary does have a great net-minder in Miikka Kiprusoff, but could use more offensive weaons around him lately.
#6 Columbus Blue Jackets (40-29-8, 88 points) This is the best team in the nine year history of the franchise. The Hawks have 2 games remaining against this scrappy bunch and a 2-1 record against them so far this season. Columbus has already set a franchise record for points and will likely make the program’s first Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance. Their best players are goalie Steve Mason and Left Wing Rick Nash who has been dishing out assists lately like another famous Nash: Steve of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.Follow paulmbanks