Reporting Nick Shepkowski
By Nick Shepkowski–
With 25 games to go the Blackhawks road to the playoffs is anything but easy. A 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild last night helped the ‘Hawks playoff cause but the path ahead remains anything but clear.
Of the remaining 25 games on the schedule, 17 will be played against current playoff teams (68%) with 7 of those games coming against current division leaders (28%). Less than half (11) of the remaining games take place on United Center ice which will make a potential playoff appearance that much more difficult as the ‘Hawks will be on the road for 14 times. Compared to the ‘Hawks final 25 contests, the most recent 25 games looked like a cake-walk; a cake-walk that didn’t yield the results one would have liked to see.
Over the past 25 games the Blackhawks went 13-9-3, earning just 29 of 50 possible points. Why is this a concern? In the previous 25 contests the Blackhawks had the benefit of a more favorable schedule that sits ahead of them to close the 2010-11 season.
In those 25 games they played only 13 games against current playoff teams, down from the 17 they close the season against. Only 5 times in the last 25 did they play any division leaders, two less than the 7 times they will play current division leaders to close the season. Finally, the Blackhawks have played 14 of their last 25 games on home ice, three more than they will have the benefit of playing at the United Center to close the year.
By comparison, some the teams the Blackhawks are chasing have more favorable paths to the playoffs. Of #8 Calgary’s 22 remaining games, 12 are against current playoff teams (54%) while #10 Minnesota plays just 13 of their final 25 (52%) against current playoff teams. Both the Flames and Wild have more home games remaining than road contests as well. #9 Los Angeles on the other hand faces a road very similar to the Blackhawks as 18 of their last 25 will come against current playoff teams with six of those being against current division leaders. The Kings however get the benefit of playing 14 of those 25 games on home ice.
With 25 games to go, many things will obviously have to go the ‘Hawks way in order to try and repeat their Stanley Cup run from a year ago. If things go poorly in their matchups with Phoenix, Minnesota, and Calgary from February 27 to March 2, the stretch run of the regular season could easily end up being irrelevant.