With the end of the NHL season looming just two weeks away, we’re taking a look at where everyone stands as races continue to heat up and teams make their final pushes for postseason berths.
If the Playoffs Started Today:
Minnesota vs. Nashville
Chicago vs. St. Louis
Winnipeg vs. Anaheim
Calgary vs. Vancouver
Who’s Hot, Who’s Not:
-The Minnesota Wild are still one of the hottest teams in hockey, winning their last five games in a row and going 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. The team is so hot that they’ve even started to threaten the Chicago Blackhawks for the third seed in the Central Division, meaning that the Hawks would either be stuck playing the Nashville Predators or Anaheim Ducks (both of whom clinched playoff spots this week).
-Speaking of the Ducks, they currently hold a three-point lead for the top spot in the Western Conference after a successful end to their east coast road trip. They won three games in a row to finish it off, including an overtime victory over the Bruins and regulation wins over the Islanders and Devils.
-The Blackhawks’ offense has been a big reason the team has been slipping in the standings lately, and even though they picked up a huge regulation win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night (much to the delight of Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings fans), they’ve still got plenty of questions to answer as they scratch and claw for playoff seeding.
-The Flames meanwhile have lost five of their last seven games, but a convincing 5-2 win over the Predators on Sunday night really helped their playoff chances. Jiri Hudler had an excellent game for them, picking up a goal and two assists, and the win moved them back into the second wild card spot.
The Road Ahead:
One of the things to keep an eye on this week is whether or not the Ducks can lock down the Pacific Division title. If they get one more point in the standings, or if Vancouver drops a single point, the Ducks will clinch.
Despite losing four of their last five games (they did get two additional points in those losses), the Blues are just three points behind the Predators for the top spot in the Central Division, and although the road will be tough this week as they play Vancouver, Calgary, and Chicago, they could make up some ground, as they have two games in hand on their rivals from Tennessee.
The Blackhawks could also make a move forward in the standings thanks to that game against St. Louis to wrap up the week, but they also have to deal with a Kings team on Monday night that is trying desperately to get into the playoffs in some way.
Speaking of those Kings, after their game against the Blackhawks they will get a couple of easy games against Edmonton and Colorado this week, giving them a chance to gain some ground in the standings as the Flames deal with road games against the Stars and Blues.
The Game to Watch:
The game between the Flames and the Blues on Thursday night will have implications in both the Central and wild card races, but the big one on the docket is the battle between the Blackhawks and the Kings on Monday night at the United Center. The Kings need the two points to position themselves in the Pacific race and the wild card race, while the Hawks need the win to help fend off the Wild and potentially give themselves a chance to make a run at the top spot in the Central Division.