It looks like the Western Conference playoff race will be a fight to the end for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings and possibly the Minnesota Wild.
While the Red Wings handled the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday, the Blue Jackets topped the Dallas Stars 3-1 to stay in the running for a playoff spot.
In a humorous twist, fans of the Red Wings and Blue Jackets will go from jeering Thursday’s opponents for becoming one-night fans of those respective squads on Saturday. The Stars host the Red Wings while the Blue Jackets have a home game against the Predators to close out all four teams’ seasons.
Even if the Blue Jackets do win, the Red Wings only need one point to clinch a postseason spot while the Wild only need one win or two overtime/shootout losses (both squads hold insurmountable tiebreaker advantages over Columbus).
Don’t worry about all the drama being sapped away before the Blue Jackets can even finish their last game, though. While Minnesota can wrap things up on Friday, both the Blue Jackets and Red Wings play at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, so Columbus isn’t likely to hear that it’s all for naught early in the game.
In a way, it echoes the NBA’s sublime setup for the end of the Western Conference playoff run, as the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to win their last game after the Utah Jazz forced the issue.
Saturday’s advantage: it’s hockey. Saturday’s shortcoming: very low odds for Kobe Bryant Twitter commentary.