When the calendar flips to March, that's when teams in the NHL start to get excited about the thought of playoffs. The dog days are in the rearview mirror and the stretch run has arrived.
Originally, it didn't seem like the postseason was remotely possible for the Blackhawks. Then they rattled off wins in 10 of 12 games, and while that was happening, everyone that they needed to lose was losing. It reached a point where they sat in a wildcard spot for a brief moment.
But in a matter of two weeks, things have changed drastically.
Going into Thursday's game, the Blackhawks are nine points out of a wildcard spot in the Western Conference and have a 0.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to sportsclubstats.com. Despite those long odds, they're not giving up hope until the math says they're out of it.
"It's just win the game tonight," Jonathan Toews said of the team's mindset. "We played pretty decent in San Jose, but we didn't come up with the win and then obviously gave up some goals in the third. But we've got to be better. These are our playoffs right now and it's time to raise our game, raise our level, so we'll see what we've got."
The projected playoff cut is around 88 points, which is lower than in year's past. But with the Blackhawks at 63 points and only 16 games remaining, they have no margin for error. They need to go on a run of 11-2-3 — or something along those lines — just to reach that benchmark, and there's no guarantee they'll win any tiebreaker scenario because they're behind in the regulation plus overtime wins category.
So yeah, every game from here on out is a must-win situation. Preferably in regulation, but one step at a time.
"There's no playoffs, there's no offseason, there's no next year," Toews said. "It's all right now. We want to be as good as we can be. ... We don't have that many games left this year so we're trying to make the most of it."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.