From the look of things, the Western Conference’s wild card race won’t be as crowded as the erratic East, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a compelling tug-of-war for the final spot.
The Phoenix Coyotes pulled things in their direction on Tuesday by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 while the Dallas Stars lost 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks. With that, the ‘Yotes now have a three-point lead for that eighth spot out West, although there are a few reasons why that margin is even slimmer than it sounds.
As you may notice, the Stars have a game in hand, so they could come within two points with a shootout/overtime loss and one point with a win. Most importantly – and most intriguingly – the two teams also will finish off their regular season schedules with a game in Phoenix on April 13.
(If you don’t have a horse in that race, that has to be the situation to root for from a drama standpoint, right?)
The highlight of the Phoenix win was also the game-winning goal, as Mikkel Boedker scored this wicked one:
Andrew Shaw’s 19th goal of the season didn’t clinch it for Chicago, yet it’s worth watching in its own right:
The Coyotes finish their three-game Metropolitan Division road trip against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Stars host the Nashville Predators before embarking on what could be a make-or-break five-game road trip that begins in St. Louis and then switches to four teams that once played in the now-defunct Southeast Division (Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida).
While the Vancouver Canucks have an outside chance at making this a three-team race, it seems likely that the final spot may come down to a seesaw battle between the Stars and Coyotes. Phoenix won this round, then.