Presently, the Colorado Avalanche sit two points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks in the standings with one game in hand. As has been discussed, the two teams are all but assured to match up in the first round of the NHL‘s 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Central Division’s second and third seeds.
The question, then, becomes which of the two will nab that second seed, which brings home-ice advantage in the series along with it. The Avalanche certainly have the inside track as things stand, but they have a difficult remaining schedule; the team will be on the road for the rest of the regular season for tilts against the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. Chicago, meanwhile, has things a tad easier, with a looming home matchup against the Montreal Canadiens followed by two road games against the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators.
The Blackhawks likely will need to win out in order to have a chance at beating out the Avalanche for home-ice in the first round. In addition to Chicago going 3-0, the Avalanche would need to collect three or less points in their four remaining games. It is certainly possible that this occurs, but the much more probable scenario is for Colorado to host Games 1 and 2 come mid-April. The next question, then: Does having or not having home-ice significantly alter Chicago’s chances of winning the series?
Judging from past events, the answer is unequivocally “no.” The Blackhawks have actually had a habit of playing better hockey away from Chicago in the playoffs, most notably in 2010. Their experience and depth should render the venue itself of relatively little importance.
Regardless of how the rest of the regular season transpires, this will be a fantastic series.