Picture this: two teams fighting for the final playoff spot in their final game of the regular season.
For fans of the sport as a whole, it would be delicious. Granted, if your team was involved, there might be some indigestion.
That dream scenario happened fairly recently for the NHL. The Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers memorably battled it out for a playoff spot on April 11, 2010, the last day of the 2009-10 season. Some complained about it boiling down to a shootout, yet most enjoyed the do-or-die thrill of it all.
The same could very well be true during this season with two great Western Conference games on April 7, the last day of the season for West teams. (The Bruins and Panthers close out the regular season overall the next day).
As of today, the most fascinating matchup comes as the eighth-ranked Avalanche host the Blues, who are currently in ninth. Also on April 7: the seventh-ranked Kings face the Stars, whose hopes could be more less crushed tonight. Avalanche vs. Blues really could determine a playoff spot, though.
That’s an exciting proposition, but there are other fun matchups that should make for a great stretch run.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
Let’s look at additional games of real note down the stretch. It may be helpful to see the standings first, though:
Wild, Sharks, Stars note first: If the Stars have any chance, it’s if they beat the Sharks tonight. The Wild are also unlikely to slip into the bubble, but if they do, it might come down to botching a home-and-home against the Stars on Thursday and Saturday.
Friday: Kings at Ducks
Sunday: Avalanche at Ducks
Monday, April 2: Avalanche at Kings
Wednesday, April 4: Wild at Ducks
Thursday, April 5: Avalanche at Sharks, Wild at Kings
Friday, April 6: Stars at Ducks
Saturday, April 7: Blues at Avalanche, Stars at Kings
Even if the Wild don’t sink to the pack and the Stars fall out of the running, the above dates stand as huge for at least one of the teams involved. It’s interesting to note which teams have advantages, too.
The Ducks get to play four key games at home. Los Angeles plays three of four at home as well, giving them a lot of “control over their destiny.” The Avs face three of their four noted games on the road, while the Blues generally face teams who’ve either locked up a spot and might be resting a bit (Vegas, Washington) or teams out of the mix (Blackhawks twice, Coyotes once) between tonight’s game against the Sharks and that closing clash with Colorado.
One can debate which teams hold the best odds, but particularly when it comes to the top nine teams in the West, it could be a race to remember.
Some of key dates, team by team (not full schedules, click each team for more)
Fri, Mar 30 vs Los Angeles
Sun, Apr 1 vs Colorado
Wed, Apr 4 vs Minnesota
Fri, Apr 6 vs Dallas
Sun, Apr 1 @ Anaheim
Mon, Apr 2 @ Los Angeles
Thu, Apr 5 @ San Jose
Sat, Apr 7 vs St. Louis
Thu, Mar 29 @ Minnesota
Sat, Mar 31 vs Minnesota
Tue, Apr 3 @ San Jose
Fri, Apr 6 @ Anaheim
Sat, Apr 7 @ Los Angeles
Fri, Mar 30 @ Anaheim
Mon, Apr 2 vs Colorado
Thu, Apr 5 vs Minnesota
Sat, Apr 7 vs Dallas
Thu, Mar 29 vs Dallas
Sat, Mar 31 @ Dallas
Wed, Apr 4 @ Anaheim
Thu, Apr 5 @ Los Angeles
Tonight vs San Jose
Sat, April 7 @ Colorado