The Blackhawks are at the top of a list of six teams battling for playoff slots six, seven and eight in the Western Conference. And, looking at those six teams, the schedule will play a huge role down the stretch.
The Dallas Stars have a fascinating (read: awful for them) schedule down the stretch. Of their 19 remaining games, 11 are against teams currently in the playoffs. In fact, they have the toughest finish to a season of anyone chasing the final few spots; Dallas ends their season with five games at Vancouver, at San Jose, vs. San Jose, at Nashville and vs. St. Louis.
Obviously the Sharks have two games against the Stars in their final week as well. Of their final 21 games, nine are against teams currently in the playoffs. However, they also have two games against Anaheim, one against Colorado and three against Los Angeles down the stretch. The Sharks finish their season with a home-and-home against the Kings.
Los Angeles, as we just noted, will play San Jose three times in the final five weeks of the season. But that’s the least of the Kings’ worries. Between Monday and March 13, the King will travel to Nashville twice and Detroit and Chicago once each before hosting the Red Wings. The Kings then have a four-game homestand in the middle of March against Nashville, San Jose, St. Louis and Boston before travelling to Vancouver.
Colorado has a couple of interesting three-game road trips in March, the first against three Eastern Conference teams (Buffalo, New Jersey and the New York Rangers) and the second against Western Conference foes (San Jose, Vancouver and Calgary). The Avs host Columbus twice in the season’s final five weeks.
The Flames, who have lost four of their last five, might be in position to be a spoiler more than they’re a likely candidate for one of the final playoff spots. After three tough losses in a row, they host the Blues before travelling to Phoenix and Anaheim. Their schedule isn’t as heavy with playoff teams as those between them and a postseason spot, but their last five games (vs LA, vs COL, @ VAN, vs VAN and vs ANA) are all against teams that will be battling for position.
As you can see below, the Blackhawks certainly won’t get any favors from their schedule. There are just as many rough games ahead for Chicago, both at the United Center and on the road. The Hawks will need to get their act together and try to find some consistency on the ice to hang onto a playoff spot.