WASHINGTON, D.C. – When the Blackhawks departed Chicago for our nation’s capital on Thursday afternoon, their weekend games against the Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators still could’ve been pivotal.
By the wee hours of Friday morning, however, that changed. Thanks to another loss by the St. Louis Blues and another victory by the Colorado Avalanche, the Blackhawks’ seeding has been set: they will take third in the division and will definitely start the postseason on the road.
Still, the Blackhawks’ final two regular season games aren’t completely devoid of meaning. Be it young guys still on their “auditions” or a team still trying to stay sharp, the Blackhawks still have some things to play for on this final regular-season weekend.
“We want to make sure we’re sustaining what we’ve accomplished over the last four games and do the right things,” said head coach Joel Quenneville.
The Blackhawks will balance staying sharp and getting rest over these next two games, with most players participating in Friday night’s game. Quenneville said they’ll think about resting some guys against the Predators on Saturday night. For those who continue to play, staying at their best is key.
“We want to keep the momentum we’ve had,” Bryan Bickell said. “We’re playing simple hockey, good hockey, and in the playoffs that’s what you need to do.”
For young forwards like Jeremy Morin and Joakim Nordstrom, the focus is a little different. The two have filled voids in the wake of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane’s injury, and they’d love to be part of the postseason roster. Morin has been hard to ignore in his latest stint here, with three goals in as many games. He said the Blackhawks haven’t talked to him yet about if he fits into the playoff roster.
“Obviously that’s the goal, to play in the playoffs. But I can’t control that,” Morin said. “If I’m in the lineup, just make the most of it and that’s what I’m trying to do: finish off the season the right way and keep contributing.”
And you best believe the Blackhawks will keep watching the scoreboards through the weekend. Colorado and St. Louis are going in opposite directions right now, with the Avs overtaking the Blues atop the division on Thursday night. It wasn’t long ago that Quenneville was focused on the seemingly set Avs-Blackhawks matchup in the first round, and for good reason. Oh, how things have changed.
“That inevitable wasn’t so inevitable after all. The only inevitable thing about the whole thing is we’ll be starting on the road,” Queneville said. “Last night I watched both games late. Who would’ve seen that coming? It’s quite a turn of events that probably could be decided late Sunday.”
Indeed, and the Blackhawks are intrigued at what could happen.
“It’s hard not to (watch) because our matchup starting next week is still up in the air,” Ben Smith said. “You look at the scores, you try to figure out the scenarios, but regardless, it’s how we’re playing. We’re going to try to play hard (Friday) and (Saturday) and feel good about ourselves moving into the first round.”