We are reaching the final dozen games of the 2021 season, and the Chicago Blackhawks are in the thick of a Central Division playoff race.
They’ve got a two-game set against the Red Wings coming up next, but after that is arguably *the* make-or-break three-game series of the year against the Nashville Predators. Of course, the next NINE games after the Red Wings will all be against teams in playoff position — Nashville (3 games), Lightning (1), Panthers (2), and Hurricanes (3). So, yeah, it’s crunch time. HOWEVA, they can’t fall for the trap of forgetting about the Red Wings. Chicago must take care of business before heading into the gauntlet.
Central Division Standings:
1. Carolina Hurricanes (27-10-4) – 58 points
2. Tampa Bay Lightning (28-12-2) – 58 points
3. Florida Panthers (27-12-4) – 58 points
4. Nashville Predators (24-19-1) – 49 points
5. Chicago Blackhawks (20-18-5) – 45 points
6. Dallas Stars (15-14-12) – 42 points
7. Columbus Blue Jackets (15-20-9) – 39 points
8. Detroit Red Wings (15-23-6) – 36 points
Aside from the Blackhawks having yet to beat the Predators this season (0-3-2), the biggest difference in the race for fourth-place may come down to the points behind left on the ice and who ultimately ends as the most “pitiful” team, earning just the lone pity point when heading to extra time this season. Of the three teams in the race for fourth-place, the current standings reflect the success seen this season in overtime and the shootout.
• Nashville 8-1 when going to overtime or the shootout this season.
• Chicago 5-5 when going to overtime or the shootout this season.
• Dallas 2-12 when going to overtime or the shootout this season.
The Blackhawks need to have some help from their friends in the Division over the next week as well. While Chicago takes on Detroit, the Predators will be facing the Carolina Hurricanes and the Stars take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. Head-to-head this season, Carolina holds a 4-0-0 record against Nashville and Columbus has a 3-2-1 record against Dallas. If those teams can keep their track record off success against the teams in the playoff chase this week, Chicago has a chance to be within a point or two heading into their series against Nashville, so long as they take care of their business against Detroit in “must-win” games this week.