The final day of the regular season is here and there is still plenty on the line for 16 NHL teams. Each conference knows which teams will be fighting for a Stanley Cup championship, but there is plenty of room for change in the current seeding. So, let’s take a look at where we are to begin the day, and how things could change depending on how the games play out.
Today’s Games in the Eastern Conference:
8. Washington Capitals AT 1. New York Rangers
New York — The Rangers have clinched the top overall seed in the conference, so technically there isn’t anything on the line tonight. However, if for some reason they prefer a matchup with Florida instead of Washington, maybe they’ll give the Capitals a bit of help? You never know.
Washington — Well, the Capitals are set up with a preview of their first round playoff matchup unless they are able to win and get some help. Florida would have to lose in regulation to Carolina to give the Caps the division championship, or the Senators would have to lose in regulation to push them into 7th.
Buffalo Sabres AT 2. Boston Bruins
Boston — The Bruins have locked down the number two seed in the postseason, so the outcome of this game isn’t significant. All Boston will be interested in is seeing who their first round opponent will be.
Carolina Hurricanes AT 3. Florida Panthers
Florida — Win (or lose in overtime) and you’re the division champion. It’s as simple as that for the Panthers. And, lucky for them, they are facing the fairly lousy Hurricanes in the friendly confines of the BankAtlantic Center. But, if Florida loses in regulation, they could fall to the 8th seed and out of home ice in the first round if Washington wins.
5. Philadelphia Flyers AT 4. Pittsburgh Penguins
BOTH TEAMS — Look, there is no significance to this contest in terms of movement in the standings. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will meet in the first round of the postseason and the Penguins will have the home ice advantage. So, for tonight, let’s just enjoy the unbelievable rivalry that these teams have — especially since we’ll see them in action together for at least four more games in-a-row.
7. Ottawa Senators AT 6. New Jersey Devils
Ottawa — The Senators, similar to Florida, hold their own destiny in the playoff race. In other words, a win (or overtime loss) would be enough to keep them in the 7th spot heading into the postseason. However, if Ottawa loses, Florida gets at least one point, and Washington wins, the Senators would fall to 8th.
New Jersey — As is the case with a few of the other teams in the East, New Jersey knows they will be the 6th seed, but they don’t know who they will play. So, expect the Devils to be more concerned with watching how the Southeast Division finishes, rather than focusing on winning this game.
Today’s Games in the Western Conference:
Edmonton Oilers AT 1. Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver — The Canucks have to pick up at least one point in their matchup with the Oilers to clinch the top spot in the conference. If they lose in regulation and the Blues are victorious, the two clubs will flip flop spots in the postseason.
2. St. Louis Blues AT Dallas Stars
St. Louis — Similar to Vancouver, the Blues have won their division and can finish no worse than 2nd in the conference. They will be playing for a victory tonight though, since a win and a Canucks loss would push them into 1st and secure them home ice until conference finals at the least.
3. Phoenix Coyotes AT Minnesota Wild
Phoenix — The Coyotes have never won a Pacific Division championship, but it is now finally within reach. All that they need to do is beat the pesky Wild on the road and the crown is theirs. And how do they lose the division? If Phoenix falls and the Kings defeat the Sharks, they would swap spots in the standings.
4. Nashville Predators AT Colorado Avalanche
Nashville — If the Red Wings lose to the Blackhawks in the days first contest, the Predators will clinch the 4th spot and therefore will have home ice in the first round of the playoffs. However, a Detroit win would put the Preds in a position in which they would need to beat Colorado.
6. Chicago Blackhawks AT 5. Detroit Red Wings
Chicago — The Blackhawks will move into the 5th spot in the conference with a regulation victory over the Wings. A loss would have no impact whatsoever on Chicago’s current seed.
Detroit — There’s still plenty to play for at Joe Louis Arena. As I just said, a Red Wings regulation loss would result in them falling to 6th in the standings; but, a win could potentially move them into 4th — depending on the outcome of Nashville’s game.
7. Los Angeles Kings AT 8. San Jose Sharks
BOTH TEAMS — Because the two teams are even in points, they both are able to win the Pacific Division tonight depending on the outcome of this game and how Phoenix does against the Wild. And, even if the Coyotes win, the Sharks can pass the Kings and move into 7th with a victory.