At the beginning of every season, all 31 teams stress the importance of getting off to a strong start because it's hard to make up ground in today's NHL. The Blackhawks saw that first-hand last season after stumbling out of the gates and playing catch-up all season long.
But a fast start is also crucial because American Thanksgiving is viewed as a key date as far as playoff hopes go, and the stats back it up.
Over last six seasons, 76 percent (73-of-96) of teams in a playoff spot at American Thanksgiving have gone on to secure postseason berth. Last season, five of eight teams in the Eastern Conference got in (Boston, Columbus, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Washington) while three fell out (Buffalo, Montreal and N.Y. Rangers) and six of eight teams in the Western Conference made the dance (Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Nashville, San Jose and Winnipeg) while two missed the cut (Anaheim and Minnesota).
The Blackhawks woke up on Thursday with 25 points and find themselves three points out of the final wildcard spot in the West with five teams to jump. That seems like a difficult task to overcome considering they're also only three points from the basement of the conference.
But if you sort the standings based on points percentage, the Blackhawks are only one point away from the second wildcard position with just one team to leap (Nashville, 26 points in 24 games) because they have two games in hand on San Jose (27 points) and Anaheim (26), three games in hand on Vegas (28) and four games in hand on Calgary (28).
So while a quick glance at the standings may seem like there's still a lot of work to be done, the Blackhawks are knocking on the door of a playoff spot and not far away from controlling their own destiny. Their playoff percentage is at 43.8, according to Money Puck, but things can change quickly. And it could start with a successful home-and-home series against Colorado on Friday and Saturday.
"We're right there," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Obviously we didn't have the start we wanted but put together a good stretch in November and climbed back in the race. We're right there. the challenge now is, can we stick our nose above the pile and get on the right side of it?
"We don't want to be chasing. It's hard to make up points when everyone's going to overtime. So these are big games for us. It's fun, though. Last year, December and January, they were very important games for us, but we were so far away. Then we finally climbed back in the race and started to play big games and that was fun. We want to be in that situation now and just carry on."
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Where Blackhawks playoff hopes stand at American Thanksgiving originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago