No April Fools joke here.
With Minnesota’s 3-0 loss to Nashville this afternoon the Hawks have officially clinched the Central Division title and the top seed in the Western Conference. It’s the 16th division title in franchise history, and the first since 2013.
This finalizes a colossal meltdown by the Wild, and an unforeseen resurgence by the Hawks. Minnesota started the year with a 40-14-6 record on February 28th, leading the Hawks in the division with games in hand. But since March 1st the Wild have gone 4-11-2, coughing up those games in hand and the division to the Blackhawks.
We referenced in an earlier post how lights out the Hawks have been with home ice in this era (11-1 since 2009). They now have that advantage locked up through the entirety of the Western Conference playoffs. With the division in hand they can now attempt to either rest players or try to chase down Washington for the Presidents’ Trophy and home ice in the Final.
Either way it’s been an absolutely impressive run by the Hawks over the last month. We all seemed to be having conversations early in March about the 2/3 matchup, believing that the Wild had the division nearly locked up. Well here we are a month later and the Blackhawks have roared back to win the division. Incredible!
It’s Cup or bust this year, no doubt about that. The Hawks have checked off the first two boxes.