For some time, it seemed like the Eastern Conference’s playoff races and seeding battles would be the most interesting as the 2013-14 regular season came to a close. As it turns out, this final week might be far juicier out West.
Let’s take a tour through an increasingly interesting situation in the competitive conference.
To begin, we’ll go with teams fighting for their playoff lives (rather than musical chairs for division/conference supremacy).
The Dallas Stars managed to take a shootout win against the Nashville Predators, eliminating the Preds from the postseason race in the process. The Stars slightly strengthened their hold on the West’s final wild card spot …
… Because the Phoenix Coyotes could only manage a point against the Columbus Blue Jackets, ultimately surrendering in overtime on Tuesday. Phoenix isn’t totally collapsing as much as the Coyotes seem to be running out of gas; they’ve lost five games in a row but earned three points during that span.
Interestingly, the two teams will face the squads they rooted for tonight. Dallas takes on Columbus (and will trail the Blue Jackets 1-0 off the bat) in a game that was postponed to Wednesday. Meanwhile, Phoenix faces the Predators in Nashville on Thursday.
The Minnesota Wild went from clinching a spot in general to securing the top wild card spot by winning against the Boston Bruins in a shootout. Ilya Bryzgalov is on fire right now.
It’s not just the final West spots that are up for grabs in interesting ways thanks to the St. Louis Blues’ first three-game losing streak of the season.
The Colorado Avalanche’s win against the Edmonton Oilers leaves them only two points behind St. Louis for the Central Division crown (Blues 111, Colorado 109) and possibly the Western Conference’s top seed (idle Anaheim is at 110 points). All three teams have three games remaining this season, with Sunday’s season finale between the Ducks and the Avalanche suddenly holding even more interesting implications (at least potentially).
The idle San Jose Sharks aren’t out of the Pacific race, either. Ponder this: the runner-up in the Central race would face Chicago in the first round while the Pacific’s second-place team nets Los Angeles in an opening series. Yup, that’s plenty of motivation to finish strong.
(Especially if the top wild card team Minnesota stays as hot as they’ve been.)
This dominant win is a heck of a way for the Kings to begin an imposing seven-game road trip, which continues against the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Bruins probably want to burn the tape on this one themselves, as they’re about to head on a six-game road trip.
Per @EliasSports: @LAKings had 9 different skaters score in a game for 5th time in franchise history. Last: Jan. 21, 1987 vs. PIT (10-5 W).
Some hockey players resist the urge to wear a visor, at least if they’re given that choice.
Perhaps a few will say “Hey, Nathan Beaulieu will just punch it off anyway.”
Maybe not, but Beaulieu provided a rather unique moment in his fight with Cedric Paquette during the Montreal Canadiens – Tampa Bay Lightning game. You can watch that bout in the video above, and see a cut on the Lightning pest’s face from that blow.