With last night’s big win in Nashville, the Blackhawks tied the Red Wings for 5th place in the Western Conference with 97 points. They sit just one point behind the 4th place Predators. While you always want to try and head into the playoffs with as high of a seed as possible, this year may be a little different for the Hawks.
Up until last night, the Blackhawks had been sitting in the number 6 spot in the West for quite some time. If they were to enter the playoffs as the number 6 seed, they would play the number 3 seed (the winner of the Pacific Division) in the first round of the playoffs. If they make the playoffs as the number 5 seed, they will play either Detroit or Nashville (whichever is the number 4 seed) in the first round. There is now a chance that the Hawks could even end up getting the 4 seed in the Western Conference. The big question is, do the Blackhawks really want to end up as high as the number 4 or 5 seed?
Let’s say that the Hawks end up finishing 5th in the Western Conference. They would end up playing either the Red Wings or the Predators in the first round. Both the Wings and Predators are two of the best defensive teams in the entire NHL, and they also tend to give the Blackhawks more problems than most other teams. As the 5 seed, the Hawks would play one of these two teams in the first round, and they would be without the home-ice advantage (only the top 4 seeds get home-ice advantage in the first round). If this were to be the case, I’m not so sure that the Blackhawks advance to the second round, regardless of whether they play the Red Wings or Predators.
Now, what if the Blackhawks get the 4 seed? In this instance, they would still play either Detroit or Nashville, giving them an extremely tough first round matchup, but they would have home-ice advantage. This gives them a bit of a better chance at advancing past the first round.
What happens if the Hawks end up as the 6 seed in the West? Well, they would play the winner of the Pacific Division in the first round. Regardless of which team wins the Pacific (San Jose, Dallas, Los Angeles, or Phoenix), they will have finished the season with fewer points than the Blackhawks. The Hawks match-up better against any of those 4 Pacific Division teams than they do against both Detroit or Nashville. The only problem with finishing as the 6 seed is that they lose home-ice advantage. With that said, I still believe that the Hawks could get by the first round against whichever team wins the Pacific.
So which seed benefits the Hawks the most? It comes down to either the 4 or 6 seed. With the 4 seed, yes they would have an extremely tough first round matchup, but they would have home-ice advantage in that series. As the 6 seed, they would match-up better against their opponent than they would as the 4 seed. Having said that, I would like to see the Blackhawks finish 4th in the conference. Their first round would definitely be a tough one, but with home-ice advantage on their side, they could get the job done (not to mention that it sounds like Toews will for sure be back for the playoffs). It’s always a good thing to have as high of a seed as possible as you get deeper and deeper into the playoffs.
As it stands right now, anything could happen. As long as the Hawks don’t end up getting the 5 seed, I think they have what it takes to get by the first round, and maybe even further.