Wins aren't best bet for Hawks

March 26, 2012|By Alex Quigley | For RedEye

I bet my editor is going to headline this "Rooting To Lose" so it really pops off the page. (Editor's note: I considered it.)

The Blackhawks sit comfortably as the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. After a particularly ugly loss to Nashville on Sunday, it's understandable that many Hawks fans want a trail of undefeated, blood-stained ice for the rest of the regular season. But I think we'd be better off if the Hawks finish on a "meh" note.

The highly underrated sportsclubstats.com (using more than 1 billion weighted simulations of the rest of the NHL regular season!) predicts the Blackhawks will make the playoffs with 100 percent certainty if they can reach 97 points. At 95 points, it's a 99.9 percent certainty. They're at 92 points now with six games to play.

As it stands, the Blackhawks would face the Pacific Division winner in the opening round—a toss-up between four mediocre teams. But if the Hawks go on a tear and somehow leapfrog Nashville and/or Detroit into the fourth or fifth slot: congratulations! They've won an opening-round showdown with one of the two toughest teams in the league!

And before you worry about home ice, consider how third-seeded, home-ice-havin' teams have fared in the first round since the NHL lockout: They've only won half of the 12 matchups. And of the four possible Pacific winners, only San Jose has anything closely resembling strong home-ice play this year.

The best case scenario for the Blackhawks to hoist the Cup again this June? Beating an inferior opponent in five or six games in the first round, and leaving the Red Wings and Predators to bloody each other for six or seven games. And the Hawks can get there by continuing to rest Jonathan Toews, coping with the suspension of Duncan Keith and generally healing up for the next two weeks.

It's not glorious or perhaps even fun, but it's the way the playoff seeding game is played. Root for the smart play, Blackhawks fans. Root for May and June.

Alex Quigley can be heard on 720 WGN Radio.

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