Well, Tuesday sure was a busy night in the NHL. There were interesting developments for the East, but when it comes to the playoff races, the West saw the most interesting shuffling.
The Minnesota Wild fattened their Central Division lead over Chicago and others, the San Jose Sharks coughed up an overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres and the Anaheim Ducks failed to gain ground on the Oilers.
That’s interesting stuff, but let’s focus on the teams fighting for their playoff survival, where the most dramatic movement happened.
First, the wild card races:
1. Blues – 59 points in 54 games, St. Louis shut out the Senators (read more here)
2. Flames – 59 points in 56 games, Calgary edged Pittsburgh via shootout
Kings – 58 points in 54 games, Los Angeles dropped a humbling loss to Tampa Bay (click for more)
Jets – 54 in 56 games after 4-2 loss to the Wild
Canucks – 52 in 53 games after regulation loss to Predators
Stars – 52 in 54 games after losing to Maple Leafs
As you can see, there seems to be a distance building between the teams in playoff position, one squad on the outside looking in (the Kings) and teams that are falling behind.
Battle for third place in Central
3. Predators – 60 points in 53 games
Blues – 59 in 54 games
Jets – 54 in 56 games
Stars – 52 in 54 games
Nashville and St. Louis are in a tight battle for that third spot (which would place them against the Blackhawks right now). Some might count the Stars and Jets out of the running for the third spot.
Update: The Oilers and Ducks are battling it out for second and third positioning in the Pacific at the moment, so this post was tweaked.
OK, as you can see, there’s room for the Blues, Predators, Flames and Kings to jockey for positioning, whether it means in the wild card races or divisional positioning battles.
While tonight was very tough on Los Angeles, the Blues, Predators and Flames have all looked at the playoff picture with reasons for pessimism as well. The races for the last four spots in the West could be very dramatic, especially if teams like the Stars, Jets or Canucks manage surges of their own.