With the playoffs just around the corner, and the teams atop their respective divisions looking to wrap up the title, we’re starting to get a pretty good look at what the playoff picture is going to look like next month.
But fourth place is beginning to look like a real possibility, given the Hawks’ improved play since the calendar turned to March. So now the question becomes, should the Hawks shoot for sixth or try and grab as high of a seed as they can?
The sixth seed would have its benefits. Though the Hawks wouldn’t have home ice advantage, they’d be playing the Pacific Division winner, which is not even close to being decided. Right now, that team could be the Dallas Stars who aren’t exactly a feared opponent on the road. It’s a series that the Hawks would certainly have the upper hand in.
But beyond the first round is where trying to stick in that sixth spot can hurt you. Having to go up against a team like the Detroit Red Wings, who have been so dominant at home this year, could end up spelling trouble for the Blackhawks this postseason.
The only reason that this is even a debate is because of the fact that the Blackhawks have turned their play around since March began. They’re 7-1-1 this month, thanks to the stars stepping their game up, the defense improving greatly, and the, hopeful, rebirth of Corey Crawford.
That record has left them in striking distance of the no. 4 seed in the West. They’re just four points back of both the Red Wings and Nashville Predators, heading into the final stretch. It’s obviously no guarantee that the Hawks could move up a spot in the standings, but it’s a definite possibility.
The question is whether or not moving up would benefit the Blackhawks. The way I see it, the six seed only benefits the Hawks in the first round, when they play someone from the Pacific Division. Beyond that, we have no idea what’s going to happen and what the matchups are going to be.
If the Hawks move up to, say, the fourth seed, they’ll end up with home ice against either Detroit or Nashville. If they hope to beat either of those teams, they’ll absolutely need it. Either way, a 4-5 matchup looks much more favorable against Detroit.
So should the Hawks be happy with the sixth spot in the West, or aim to move up as high as possible? I see no reason that they shouldn’t go all in and try to move up to fourth. It’s possible, and it would present a better opportunity for success for a potential deep playoff run.
Of course, any postseason discussion seems silly until we actually know the status of Jonathan Toews, doesn’t it?