The Blackhawks have been resting up since getting absolutely pasted by the Carolina Hurricanes 5-0 on January 26th. The All-Star break could not have come at a better time for the team. Even better, only Patrick Kane ended up attending the John Scott All-Star festivities, as Jonathan Toews recuperated from an illness. As a fan, I am absolutely thrilled everyone but Kane rested. And, please don’t get me started with the Toews one game suspension for having the audacity to be sick.
Crazy Stretch, Great Results
While we can debate the merits of adding Crawford and Panarin to the All-Star team, and both were well-deserved, I am a bigger fan of rest. The Blackhawks just came off a stretch of playing 17 games in 31 days. During that time, they sported a fantastic record of 13 wins and 4 losses. Considering the lack of rest, it was amazing the team didn’t drop from exhaustion sooner than against the Hurricanes.
I think the ridiculous January schedule might be catching up with the Blackhawks.
— Johnboy (@John_Faker) January 23, 2016
Furthermore, they survived the unkind schedule without major injury.
Remaining Schedule to Blackhawks Advantage
As of the All-Star break, the Blackhawks were first in the Western Conference, and thus of course first in the Central as well. They have already played 53 games, posting a record of 33-16-4. These 70 points are three better than the Dallas Stars (though Dallas has played three fewer games), and seven points clear of the Los Angeles Kings (though the Kings have four fewer games played).
Rather than worry over the fact that both Dallas and L.A. have more games left to play in which to catch the Blackhawks for Western Conference supremacy, I see this as advantage Blackhawks. Why? First of all, the Blackhawks now only have 29 games left to play between February 2nd and April 9th (that’s 68 days), while Dallas must play 32, and L.A. 33 over the same period. Remember that stretch just completed? Well, Dallas and L.A. still have that gauntlet to run.
Another advantage, the Blackhawks only have two sets of back-to-back games remaining. Meanwhile, Dallas and L.A. each have three. Thus, the Blackhawks will be playing fewer games and have fewer back-to-backs as they position themselves for a postseason run. I believe these two facts play right into the Blackhawks’ hands, considering they always seem to find another gear come Stanley Cup Playoffs time.
I understand no-one can predict the future, but I think the Blackhawks are well-positioned for the another trip to the playoffs. They are also 14 points clear of the Nashville Predators, who sit in the second wild card spot. Nashville in turn is one point better than the Minnesota Wild. I figure the Blackhawks to finish with 110 points considering the schedule situation just discussed. Heaven forbid Dallas and even the St. Louis Blues (64 points in 52 games played) catch them in the Central, the Blackhawks should still comfortably finish top four in the Western Conference. While capturing the best record in the West is nice, I do not believe it is critical for another deep Blackhawks playoff run.
All Benefit From Rest
Rest becomes a bigger premium considering the Blackhawks had the shortest off-season due to winning the Cup. While Coach Quenneville is a master at managing time off, the remaining schedule only helps him play that card. It is no secret the Blackhawks are a seasoned team with veterans like Marian Hossa, Andrew Desjardins and Rob Scuderi. I am certain all will welcome the rest. Even time on the ice cyborg Duncan Keith and the human bruise Niklas Hjalmarsson can use extra healing time. Lastly, the critically important young guns like Artemi Panarin, Phillip Danault, and Dennis Rasmussen should benefit as they try to get their skating legs used to the longest season they all have likely ever played (including the playoffs).
My only concern (not really) is for those poor fans of other teams already convinced that the NHL and the powers that be clearly favor the Blackhawks.
Capitals will have not played for a full 7 days on Wednesday, and in pretty sure it's a conspiracy to allow the Blackhawks to catch up.
— Aggravated Caps Fan (@Shawnimal67) January 26, 2016
They cannot be happy with this schedule. You see, even if their favorite team catches the Blackhawks in the regular season, all that energy expended to do so will likely leave them tired come playoff time. That isn’t a very good recipe for defeating the Blackhawks, who don’t wear down easily anyway, right Anaheim and Nashville?
So what do you think readers, do the Blackhawks have a favorable schedule as they gear up for another deep Stanley Cup run?