Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

It’s not rocket surgery. Getting off to a good start in a season shortened because of children’s antics is paramount. And after three games, the Blackhawks have done what’s necessary.

Sweep a back-to-back against the defending Stanley Cup champions and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs? Check.

Dominate the majority of a home-opener versus an annoying division rival? Check.

It’s difficult to say “There’s a long way to go” when we’re already at the 45-game mark. And if you did, it’s really only half-true anyway. While 45 games means there’s plenty of time for the standings to shift, it also means there’s little margin for error if a team isn’t on pace with the rest of the conference’s top eight from the get-go.

Here’s a look at the 2011-12 playoff picture after each team played 48 games:

West

*Detroit – 32-15-1 – 65
*Vancouver – 29-15-4 – 62
*San Jose – 28-14-6 – 62
St. Louis – 29-13-6 – 64
Chicago – 29-13-6 – 64
Nashville – 28-16-4 – 60
Los Angeles – 23-15-10 – 56
Minnesota – 23-18-7 – 53
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Colorado – 25-21-2 – 52
Dallas – 25-21-2 – 52
Calgary – 22-20-6 – 50
Phoenix – 21-19-8 – 50
Anaheim – 18-23-7 – 43
Edmonton – 18-26-4 – 40
Columbus – 13-29-6 – 32

East

*Rangers – 31-12-5 – 67
*Boston – 32-14-2 – 66
*Washington – 26-19-3 – 55
Philadelphia – 29-14-5 – 63
Pittsburgh – 27-17-4 – 58
Ottawa – 26-16-6 – 58
New Jersey – 26-19-3 – 55
Florida – 22-15-11 – 55
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Toronto – 24-19-5 – 53
Winnipeg – 22-20-6 – 50
Tampa Bay – 21-23-4 – 46
Montreal – 18-21-9 – 45
Islanders – 19-22-7 – 45
Buffalo – 19-24-5 – 43
Carolina – 16-24-8 – 40

Take a quick look at the final standings. While 15 of the 16 playoff teams remained the same (Phoenix replaced Minnesota, we’ll get to that in a minute), the playoff matchups were much different.

If last season ended after 48 games, Detroit would have ended up with home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, starting with a Minnesota team in the midst of what would turn out to be a horrible collapse.

Instead, Detroit ended up as the No. 5 seed and went on the road to start its series with Nashville, which it lost in six games. Rather than Minnesota parlaying its hot start into a playoff berth, it fell completely apart and ended up 12th in the conference.

On the other end of the spectrum, Phoenix would have been headed home after a rough 48 – three games before it began an 11-0-1 tear that propelled it back into contention. The Coyotes wound up winning the Pacific and making the franchise’s first appearance in the conference finals.

Save for Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, each first-round playoff matchup would have been different in both conferences in a shortened season.

Simply put, a quick start leaves less time to blow it (Minnesota). And if you struggle off the bat, there’s less time to make an epic run and recover (Phoenix). It’s not groundbreaking, but important to note nonetheless.

If last season ended after 48, we wouldn’t have had to endure that shitty nine-game losing streak that began with Game 49 and contributed to the Blackhawks dropping to the No. 6 seed to face a red-hot division winner in the first round.

It’s not so unfathomable to be discussing how their 3-0-0 start to this season is a solid move toward a nice playoff standing by shortened-season’s end. Yes, there’s plenty of time left and a bitch of a six-game road trip upcoming.

Still, there’s no reason to dismiss how far the Hawks’ fast start can take them in the grand scheme of things. But if the ‘Hawks fart away nine games again with little time to recover, it could be the difference in hosting the opening playoff game to watching the postseason on their expensive couches.