OK, so an outright loss tonight in Columbus wouldn’t totally kill the Red Wings’ chances of making the playoffs for the 23rd straight time, but it would definitely hurt them. Badly.
Consider: if Columbus wins tonight in regulation, the Blue Jackets would move two points up on Detroit for the final wild-card spot in the East, with both teams having 17 games remaining. However, that lead would essentially be three points, because the Jackets would hold a 30-25 lead in regulation/overtime wins, the tiebreaker.
“Biggest game, really, if you think about it right now after losing that one to the Rangers,” defenseman Brendan Smith said, per MLive.com. “We need to take this one, especially if there’s a four-point swing.”
Indeed, if the Wings win in regulation, it puts Columbus in a tough position, though the Jackets would still hold what could very well be the all-important tie-breaker.
PS — No, we’re not convinced Tampa Bay is a lock for the other wild-card spot. Not the way the Lightning have been playing lately, that’s for sure.