The Blackhawks’ most recent slide — they’ve gone 1-3-3 in the last seven games — have slowly erased any optimism that was building about a potential push for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.
This positive thinking was at its zenith after a 5-1 stretch ahead of the Winter Classic, with all five wins coming against Central Division opponents.
It’s all gone now, though, and it’s probably never coming back, because the Blackhawks already dug themselves a massive hole with a 3-16-3 stretch earlier this season that cost Joel Quenneville his job. But even with that late December run, Chicago’s odds of making the playoffs were never good. Just how big of a hole did the Blackhawks dig themselves? Let’s munch some numbers.
The first issue is with games played.
As of Wednesday morning, Chicago has played 48 games, one of five in the league at that total and only the Golden Knights have more at 49. At the other end, five teams have played only 45 games. With 41 points, Chicago is 28th in the league, and three teams behind them have all played fewer games: the Flyers (40 points in 46 games), Kings (40 in 47) and Senators (39 in 46). By the time those games level out, Chicago could be in the NHL dungeon.
The Blackhawks are still only eight points from a playoff spot, “chasing” the Wild’s 49 points in 46 games. And the teams Chicago would need to surpass all have games in hand: the Coyotes (43 in 45), Blues (45 in 45) Ducks/Canucks (47 in 47), and Oilers (47 in 46). Not only would the Hawks have to catch fire, all those teams would have to refrain from going on their own second-half runs.
We can also look at historical point totals for wild card teams.
Here are the number of points for the teams that earned the final wild card spot in each conference in the last five postseasons, since the NHL switched to its current divisional playoff format for the 2013-14 season: 97, 95, 95, 94, 93, 87, 98, 97, 93, 91. For the statistically-inclined, that’s a median of 94.5 and a mean (aka average) of 94.
That figure of 87, by the way, belongs to the 2015-16 Wild. The majority of teams who earned that final wild card spot usually amassed a point total somewhere in the mid-90s during an 82-game schedule.
So, let’s set the target point total for a wild card spot at 94 points for this season’s Blackhawks, who currently own 41 points through 48 games after Monday’s disastrous 8-5 loss to the Devils.
That means, in the final 34 games, the Chicago Blackhawks will need to pick up FIFTY-THREE points.
To put that in perspective: remember the 2013 Blackhawks? The team that did not lose in regulation in its first 24 games, which was a historically incredible start to an NHL season? In that team’s first 34 games, which included that absurd 21-0-3 start, the Blackhawks amassed 55 points. with a 26-5-3 record.
For this Blackhawks team, which has numerous and significant flaws, to make the playoffs, they just need to re-create the run of dominance by one of the best Blackhawks teams ever assembled playing at a pace that broke NHL records.
No pressure, guys.