Now is the time of year when standings watching starts to become a more regular thing. Fans and players alike are checking their smart phones more often and more in tune with the happenings of other teams and how it may affect playoff positioning.
For the Hawks, it mostly means checking up on the Wild, who they have been in a tug of war with at the top of the Central Division for most of the season.
But with their 2-1 victory over the Senators on Thursday, the Hawks moved three points ahead of the Wild, who still have a game in hand.
“It just shows the consistency and the way we’ve been playing,” goaltender Scott Darling said. “Everybody has been doing a great job. Obviously (Artem Anisimov) is out but other than that we’ve been pretty healthy. … Everybody is contributing and they’re doing it every night. That’s a big thing. It’s a good time of year to get everybody fired up.”
It helps that the Wild have had a significant dip in play over the last few weeks. They have lost three straight and five of their last six, including a game against the Hawks. That has enabled the Hawks to make up ground. That’s significant because given the divisional playoff format, the Hawks and Wild are on track for a second-round matchup.
The Hawks would love to have home-ice advantage in that series.
Photos from the game on March 16, 2017, in Ottawa.
As for whom the Hawks would face in the first round – that question is up in the air. If the Hawks clinch first place, they would face one of the two wild card teams, and that could be any of several teams, including some from the Pacific Division, like the Oilers, Flames or Ducks and even Central Division foes like the Blues or Predators.
Anisimov going out for the rest of the regular season doesn’t help the Hawks’ cause for home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, but it’s an injury they can overcome, just don’t expect them to go all out to try and get it.
Coach Joel Quenneville said the Hawks’ main goal is to just make the playoffs and be secure in their place by the last few games of the regular season. That way he doesn’t have to play his core players an exorbitant amount of minutes and the Hawks can be healthy when round one begins.