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Playoff update: Blackhawks closing in

Every day between now and the end of the regular season I’ll update you on the playoff race as it relates to the Chicago Blackhawks.

With their thrilling 4-3 overtime win against St. Louis on Wednesday, the Hawks have put themselves on the brink of securing a playoff seed, but they’re not quite there yet. Anaheim also won so the Ducks remain in seventh place while Chicago is in eighth. The Hawks have 95 points, the tenth place Dallas Stars have 91, but Dallas has three games remaining on its schedule, and the Hawks have two.

The Hawks control their own destiny. If they get at least three out of a possible four points over the weekend against Detroit they will clinch a playoff seed without any help.

Dallas hosts Colorado on Thursday and a win closes the gap to just two points. A loss in regulation, however, forces only one scenario where the Stars beat out the Hawks for a playoff spot. Chicago would have to drop both games to the Wings in regulation while Dallas would need to win its two remaining games just to tie the Hawks at 95 points.

Here is where it gets interesting. Dallas would need to win its games in regulation or overtime and not in a shootout. The first tiebreaker is total wins earned not including shootout victories. Dallas has 35, the Hawks have 37. A shootout win, or two, would not add to the Stars’ total and the Hawks would win that tiebreaker. If the Stars and Hawks are tied with 37 regulation plus overtime wins then the Stars win the next tie-breaker, head-to-head competition. Simple, right?

If Dallas wins out in regulation or overtime, and the Hawks lose two overtime games to Detroit the teams would tie with 97 points but Dallas would have 38 non-shootout wins to the Hawks 37 and would win the first tie-breaker.

If Dallas does lose Thursday than everyone ahead of the Hawks, seeds 5-7, all clinch a playoff spot. A loss in overtime by the Stars keeps them alive to win the final berth outright, if the Hawks drop their final two games. Calgary is currently in ninth place in the conference but was eliminated from playoff competition despite winning on Wednesday.

Dallas plays in Colorado on Friday and completes the regular season in Minnesota Sunday evening. The Hawks can still finish as high as the No. 5 seed.