CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 25: Andrew Shaw #65 of the Chicago Blackhawks battles for the puck with Antoine Roussel #21 of the Dallas Stars at the United Center on March 25, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Stars 4-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Three of the NHL’s four divisions have been decided as the Stanley Cup playoffs near, with the Anaheim Ducks wrapping up the Pacific Division title with a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.
The win also finalized the first round playoff series in that division, with the Sharks now guaranteed to host the first two games of a best-of-seven series against the Los Angeles Kings, the third place team in the division.
As for other playoff spots, there is still plenty up in the air. The Minnesota Wild have the top wild card spot sewn up in the Western Conference, but it is unclear who they will play in the first round at this point. The St. Louis Blues, who have lost three games in a row, would be their first round opponent right now, but the Blues only trail the Ducks by one point in the race for the top seed in the West, so the Wild could still end up heading to the West Coast to open up the postseason.
The other wild card spot is still up for grabs, with the Dallas Stars leading the Phoenix Coyotes by two points for the spot. The Stars dropped a 3-1 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night, and even though they do hold a lead over Phoenix, the Coyotes now have a game in hand and host the Stars in the final game of the regular season on Sunday, so things are far from settled between the two teams.
In the Central Division, things are still up for grabs all over the place. The Colorado Avalanche, who knocked off the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, are currently just two points behind the Blues for the top spot in the Central, and would own the Regulation and Overtime Wins tiebreaker if things end up coming down to that at the end of the regular season. With the Blues struggling a bit down the stretch, it’s still possible that Colorado could jump St. Louis and stun the hockey world with a division title.
The Chicago Blackhawks also won on Wednesday night, staying within two points of the Avalanche and within four of the Blues. While a division title is highly unlikely at this point, it is still possible that the Hawks could end up snatching the second seed away from the Avalanche if Colorado stumbles at all in its last three games, and that could add an interesting wrinkle to a potential playoff series between the upstarts and the defending champions should it come to pass.
The jockeying for position will continue on Thursday night as several teams are in action. The Coyotes will travel to Nashville to take on the Predators, while the Blues will head to Minnesota to take on the Wild. The Avalanche will wrap up the evening with a late tilt against the Vancouver Canucks, who will be missing the postseason after faltering late in the season.