The record-breaking, points-gobbling start does not have the Blackhawks thinking playoffs and Stanley Cup. Playing an abbreviated season took care of that.
"Probably, honestly, Game 1," winger Patrick Sharp said Wednesday when asked how soon the Hawks started thinking postseason. "It feels like it's been a sprint to the playoffs ever since we got started."
Everything has come a bit fast so far, including the head start on postseason positioning that going 19 games without a regulation loss provides. A team with legitimate championship ambition before a game was played has played itself into an enviable spot, where a blazing start has given it options and flexibility to best position itself for the ideal ending.
The final Western Conference playoff spot last season went to the Kings, who amassed 95 of a possible 164 points — or roughly 58 percent of the points available. If the percentage holds during this 48-game season, a team from the West would need 55 or 56 points to earn a postseason berth.
The Hawks already have 35 heading into a road game against the Blues on Thursday, which means they're possibly only 10 wins away from clinching a berth with 29 games remaining. If the math adds up sooner than later, so, too, would coach Joel Quenneville's choices.
"It can help you as you go along here," Quenneville said. "You can manage your team where it's not life-and-death to get in. Whether you're cutting back minutes on your top guys, you're not over-exerting players and people — that's one thing. And whether you have the luxury of experimenting as you go along, you can see. But we're not there."
No, but they're close. And as it stands, there is precious little for the Hawks to puzzle out about themselves, which means the stretch run can be about refinement instead of reinvention.
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Hot start takes pressure off Hawks
Chicago Tribune | Feb 28