With the Blackhawks in pursuit of the seventh or eighth spot in the Western Conference playoffs, and being pursued by the Dallas Stars (the Flames were eliminated last night, due to their own tiebreaker situation), here’s a (hopefully) simple explanation of what they have to do with their two remaining games.
The first tiebreaker is wins in non-shootout games; the NHL terms these ROW (Regulation plus Overtime Wins). The Blackhawks have 37; the Ducks have 41 and the Stars 35. Thus, the Hawks lose the tiebreaker to Anaheim if they wind up with the same number of points. The only way the Hawks can wind up seventh is if they win both their games and the Ducks don’t, since they are tied with 95 points.
Meanwhile, the Stars, four points behind the Blackhawks and with one more game remaining (three), could beat out the Blackhawks for the final spot if they win all their games and the Blackhawks get only three points from their final two games. If those two teams wind up tied in points andROW, the second tiebreaker is total points in the four games between the teams. The Blackhawks lose that one — the Stars had six points (3 wins), the Hawks three (one win and an overtime loss).
Clear as mud, I know. The Blackhawks are in the driver’s seat, but the car could still roll into the ditch.
In a game critical to the Blackhawks' playoff hopes and positioning, they gave up a goal to the St. Louis Blues with only 17 seconds gone in the first period, then went behind 2-0 early in the second.
But, in a display of grit rarely seen in this tough Blackhawks season, a long review delay on a puck that barely went into the Blues' net off the skate of Marian Hossa was ruled a good goal, the Hawks' first of the game; they went on to tie the game 3-3 and Jonathan Toews put in the game-winner 3:17 into overtime, giving the Hawks a 4-3 win and 95 points with two games remaining.
The two points at least temporarily put the Blackhawks into seventh place in the Western Conference standings, ahead of the Anaheim Ducks, who are playing at this writing on the West Coast. The Calgary Flames, who trailed the Blackhawks by two points going into tonight's action, are also playing out West in a late game. They could keep that two-point deficit by winning, but after tonight have only one game remaining and the Hawks could eliminate them by winning one of their two remaining contests.
The bigger challenge may come from the Dallas Stars, who have three games left but trail by four points. The Stars were idle Wednesday night; they'll host the Colorado Avalanche tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks' two remaining games are against the Detroit Red Wings, at Detroit on Friday and at home on Sunday afternoon.