Whether he likes it or not, Mike Babcock has accepted what the future has in store.
“It looks to me we’re playing Nashville in the first round,” the Red Wings coach told MLive.com. “Two really good teams, not much to pick between us, so it’s going to be a battle.”
At the time of writing, Detroit was sitting fourth in the Western Conference with 97 points, one point clear of fifth-place Nashville (96). It’s unlikely either will catch Central Division-leading St. Louis (103) or be caught by sixth-place Chicago (92) — according to Sports Club Stats, Detroit has a 65 percent chance of finishing fourth and a 30 percent chance of finishing fifth; Nashville has a 31 percent chance of finishing fourth and a 61 percent chance of finishing fifth.
What it means? With six games left in the regular season, the Preds and Wings can essentially start prepping for their first-round playoff matchup.
But before the two teams start looking ahead to the playoffs, there’s the not-so-tiny issue of home-ice advantage. Detroit, who earlier this season set an NHL record 23-game home winning streak, would obviously love to have an extra game at Joe Louis Arena (the Wings are 2-0 against the Preds at the Joe this year) — and Nashville would obviously love for Detroit to play an extra game on the road (the Wings are 16-20-3 away from the Joe this year.)
On Friday, both teams will decide their fates as the Wings host the Preds in their sixth and final meeting of the season. Detroit leads the season series 3-2, but it’s Nashville who comes in the hotter side having won six of their last 10, including a 3-2 win over Detroit on Mar. 10.
If the two teams do end up meeting in the playoffs, it’ll be for the third time — Detroit eliminated Nashville in six games in both 2003-04 (Nashville’s first-ever postseason appearance) and 2007-08 (which, oddly enough, was Alex Radulov’s swan song.)
Flames keep showing life, Stars stumble once again
If you think the Dallas Stars are struggling because of defense more than anything else, then you’ll make sure to keep the video above “on file.”
There Kari Lehtonen was, helpless on a 2-on-0 rush for the Calgary Flames, which Johnny Gaudreau finished with calm and ease. For some, that goal is the symbol of the Stars’ season.
Either way, it was a painful goal in the Flames’ 2-1 win against the Stars. Calgary won despite Dallas firing 30 shots on goal versus the Flames’ 20.
One team climbing, the other stumbling
With that, the Flames are now on a four-game winning streak. Since falling to 5-10-1 on Nov. 12, the Flames have gone 9-3-1 in their last 13 games, pushing them to 14-13-2 overall. Gaudreau coming back is the icing on the cake after Chad Johnson really took charge of the Flames’ top job.
During a similar span, the Stars can’t seem to get it together. Dallas stood at 6-6-3 after beating the Oilers 3-2 on Nov. 11. They’re now 10-11-6, essentially standing in place as a .500 team.
Dallas can’t seem to get momentum going, a thought that might have left them envious of the team on the other end of the ice on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, it wasn’t just about Jack Eichel vs. Connor McDavid. Instead, it was a clash between a fleet of young scorers who were in their prime, with the Buffalo Sabres coming up on top against the Edmonton Oilers.