A quick look ahead at some of the narratives at play this weekend…
Plenty to still be decided
OK, so 15 of the 16 playoff spots have been clinched — and Dallas can make it 16 tonight with a win against St. Louis — but that doesn’t mean this weekend will be lacking for action. Let’s begin with the Central Division.
Standings heading into Friday night’s play
Chicago’s locked into third place, so the ‘Hawks are set to play either St. Louis or Colorado in the opening round. St. Louis has two games remaining (Friday in Dallas, Sunday versus Detroit), as does Colorado (Friday in San Jose, Sunday in Anaheim) and it’s worth noting the Avs hold the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker over St. Louis, should the two finish even on points.
What else can happen this weekend?
— Montreal and Tampa Bay, already locked into facing each other in Round 1, can decide who gets home ice advantage. Montreal is one point up on Tampa Bay but the Bolts have a game in hand; the Habs play their final game of the year on Saturday against the Rangers, while the Bolts play Columbus on Friday and the Caps on Sunday.
— In the Metropolitan Division, there’s still plenty to be decided. Pittsburgh and the Rangers are locked in as the N0. 1 and 2 seeds, but Columbus could overtake Philly for third spot. The Flyers and Jackets head into this weekend’s action both with 80 games played and 91 points (Philly holds the slightest edge in the ROW tiebreaker, 37 to Columbus’ 36). So playoff positioning really will come down to what both teams can do this weekend, as the Flyers play the Pens on Saturday and ‘Canes on Sunday; the Jackets have Tampa Bay tonight and Florida on Saturday.
— Speaking of Philly and Columbus, let’s not forget that either one could be overtaken by Detroit for the first wild card spot. The Red Wings are also on 91 points and also have two games left to play (against Carolina and St. Louis)…though it’s worth noting both the Flyers and Jackets hold the ROW tiebreaker over Detroit.
— Finally, there’s the not-s0-small matter of the Presidents’ Trophy and first overall seed in the Western Conference. The Bruins are in the driver’s seat for the regular season crown, with 115 points and two games left to play, but Anaheim is also in the mix with 112 points and two games left.
The Ducks are also in the best position to finish atop the Western Conference, but could still be caught by either Colorado or St. Louis.