The Western Conference playoff race could have conceivably gotten even tighter on Tuesday night, but instead things stayed just about the same as numerous teams found themselves on the losing end of some critical games.
In the Central Division, all three of the top teams fell on Tuesday, with the St. Louis Blues getting shut out by the Winnipeg Jets at Scottrade Center. The victory for the Jets gives them a three point cushion over the Los Angeles Kings in the wild card standings, and if they win one of their final two games, they’ll clinch their first playoff berth since moving to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011.
The teams chasing the Blues didn’t fare much better, with the Nashville Predators dropping a game to the Colorado Avalanche in Denver and the Chicago Blackhawks falling to the Minnesota Wild at the United Center. The Predators continued their stumble to the finish line with the loss, as they are now 4-3-3 in their last 10 games. They still do hold the second spot in the division however, and if they finish in a tie with the Blues in the points column, they currently hold the tiebreaker thanks to having more regulation and overtime victories this season.
As for the Blackhawks, their loss couldn’t have come at a worse time. A victory would have tied them with the Predators for second place in the division, and they have a game coming up on Thursday against the Blues that could have potentially vaulted them into first place in the Central Division. The loss also means that the Blackhawks have no chance of overtaking the Anaheim Ducks for the top spot in the Western Conference, although admittedly it was a long shot anyway.
Finally, the Wild punched their ticket to the postseason on Tuesday with their victory over the Blackhawks, and they kept alive their slim hopes of sneaking into the third spot in the Central Division. If the Blackhawks get one point out of their final two games it would end those hopes, but with how well Devan Dubnyk has been playing, miracles don’t seem all that unlikely with this team.
In the Pacific Division standings, things are getting a little bit more spaced out. The Calgary Flames picked up a huge victory on Tuesday night as they bested the Arizona Coyotes, putting them into the third spot in the Pacific and giving themselves a two point lead over the Kings. That cushion is critical, because the two teams will play on Thursday night in Calgary. If the Flames win that game, they clinch a playoff berth and eliminate the Kings from contention for the final Pacific Division playoff spot, and Los Angeles would find their road to the postseason virtually closed.
The Jets can wrap up the wild card spot with one more victory in their final two games. They play the Avalanche on Thursday night and the Flames on Saturday afternoon, and even if the Kings win their final two games all the Jets have to do is get two points out of those games in order to clinch a spot and advance to the postseason.
As things stand right now, the Blues would take on the Wild in the first round of the postseason, with the Predators hosting the Blackhawks in the other Central Division matchup. The Anaheim Ducks would tangle with the Jets out in the Pacific, and the Vancouver Canucks would still be welcoming the Flames to town in a Western Canadian rivalry matchup.