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Hockey Playoff Scenarios: Looking at the Possibilities

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews (19) battles for the puck with St. Louis Blues' Andy McDonald during the overtime period of an NHL hockey game in Chicago, Wednesday, April 6, 2011. The Blackhawks won 4-3 in overtime. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

    For those of us with the NHL Center Ice package, or the online NHL Gamecenter one, this is going to be a night that's either torture or one to remember. It all could happen.

    Remember this, at the end of the night the Blackhawks could possibly be tied for 5th in the Western Conference with four teams, or they could be tied with Dallas for the final spot and having to win on the last game of the season and need help to make the playoffs. And every possibility in between.

    I'll try and get the particulars out of the way. Here are the Friday night games that matter: Hawks-Wings, Columbus at Nashville,  Dallas at Colorado, LA at Anaheim, and San Jose at Phoenix.

    The tile formation on your computer screen could become vital.

    The Hawks sit two points ahead of the Stars, tied with Anaheim (but lose the tiebreaker no matter what), and two behind Phoenix and Nashville. If the Hawks win, and the Preds and Yotes lose, and the Ducks win as well, all four of those teams will have 97 points.

    Where it goes from there would take an explanation that will cause nausea that would require amusement park employees to clean up with a dust and wood chips mix that I can't fathom.

    We'll get to that Saturday if we need to.

    The main thing is that a Hawks win Friday and the Stars either losing at all or even just getting to a shootout would clinch a spot, and that's what you should be rooting for.

    We'll worry about seeding after a spot in the bag. This Stars game could get real interesting, though if you saw the Avalanche and Stars tangle in Dallas Thursday night, you realize that the Avs are such garbage these days that it likely won't.

    But should the Hawks put a win on the board it will come well before the Stars game is finished and they will know.

    This could lead to the scenario that if the Stars and Avalanche go to overtime, the Stars might have to pull their goalie in a tie game to get a win the right way. Why?  Because the Stars only hope then would be to tie on points and then tie on the first tiebreaker, which is wins minus the ones you got in a shootout.

    Should that happen, the Stars beat out the Hawks because of head-to-head.

    The Hawks have one more Regulation/Shootout win than the Stars right now. If the Hawks win, the Stars cannot get more of those. So going to a shootout at all will do no good.

    But that only matters if the Hawks win. If they don't, it will come down to Sunday and the Hawks will face a must-win against the evil empire before anything else matters. If they lose in regulation, then it will be out of their hands and they will be counting on the long-dead Minnesota Wild to beat the Stars later on Sunday.

    If they don't win either game against Detroit this weekend, then they'll need help from both Colorado and Minnesota, and that's certainly a bridge too far.

    Who's ready?