Since clinching the division title and top seed in the West, the Hawks have cashed in three snooze worthy performances.
And guess what? None of it matters.
The Hawks know these games mean nothing. This is a chance to rest top players before the grind of the playoffs begins. Smart on Q for sitting his stars knowing that Anaheim would probably be up to their usual dirty shenanigans.
The Ducks are now a win away from clinching another Pacific Division title after hacking and slashing their way to a 4-0 victory over the Hawks’ B-Team. Usual suspects Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa (add Nick Ritchie to that list) were at it again on Thursday. But that’s par for the course for a trash organization like the Anaheim Ducks. I can’t wait to watch them piss all over themselves in the playoffs for the (counts slowly in head…) fifth straight year. I can only hope the Hawks get the chance to do the honors.
Anyways, I digress.
Outside of the Hawks, the overall playoff picture is beginning to take shape. After last night’s action there is only one more spot up for grabs in the Eastern Conference.
The Senators clinched Thursday with a 2-1 shootout win over Boston. The Maple Leafs had a chance to clinch but continued to leave the door open with a 4-1 loss to Tampa. The biggest win of the night for Toronto was Auston Matthews’ health after taking a dirty knee-on-knee hit during the game.
The Islanders and Lightning continue to hang around by a thread. A Leafs win, or NYI/TB loss, in one of their last two will wrap things up out East.
The Canadiens are already locked into a matchup with the Rangers, and the Pens and Jackets have been set in stone as well. That series is now a whole lot more intriguing with Kris Letang out for the rest of the season. That’s an injury that changes the whole complexion of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Washington also clinched their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, and Caps fans are once again trying to tell us how it really, really matters. I’m only half serious when I say that. I think this year’s Caps team is very good, and with the Letang injury should be the easy favorites to come out of the East. But I’ll believe it when I see it.
Back in the West, the Blues are one win away from locking up the three seed in the Central Division and a date with the Wild. That would leave the Preds and Flames (both have a game left) as matchups for the Blackhawks.
We said it here a few days ago, the Flames might be the most dangerous first round opponent for the Hawks. The unfamiliarity, the young talent and Brian Elliott are all things that may be cause for concern around these parts.
But a Flames win in their last game would lock up the No. 1 wild card spot, leaving the Preds in second and heading to the UC for Game 1.
The Sharks continued their slide down the division with a 4-2 loss to the Oilers on Thursday night. Edmonton now will control home ice for that potential series with wins in their next two, and have an outside shot at clinching the division if Anaheim slips up (fails to get a point) Saturday.
All of that to say there’s still a ton at play going into the final three nights of the regular season.
Look for the Hawks to field an Ice Hogs lineup Saturday in Los Angeles (I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention that the Kings have now missed the playoffs for the second time since 2014) as the best team in the West finally wraps up the regular season.
The real season is just beginning.