The NHL playoffs picture for 2013-2014 is just about set, as the Stanley Cup playoffs are almost upon on. The NHL regular season ends today, with every NHL team already knowing whether they'll be fighting for the Stanley Cup or fighting for the best tee times this Spring.
Here are the teams that are in the NHL playoff picture for 2013-2014, their current points and whether they have a game remaining:
Western Conference: Anaheim Ducks (114 pts., 1 game remaining), Colorado Rockies (111 pts., 1 game remaining), St. Louis Blues (111 pts., 1 game remaining), San Jose Sharks (111 pts., 0 games remaining), Chicago Blackhawks (107 pts., 0 games remaining), Los Angeles Kings (100 pts., 0 games remaining), Minnesota Wild (98 pts., 1 game remaining), Dallas Stars (91 pts., 1 game remaining).
Eastern Conference: Boston Bruins (117 pts., 1 game remaining), Pittsburgh Penguins (108, 1 game remaining), Montreal Canadiens (100, 0 games remaining), Tampa Bay Lightening (99 pts., 1 game remaining), New York Rangers (96 pts., 0 games remaining), Philadelphia Flyers (93 pts., 1 game remaining), Columbus Blue Jackets (93 pts., 0 games remaining), Detroit Red Wings (91 pts., 1 game remaining).
The fact that the teams are set for the NHL playoff picture doesn't mean today's slate of games will be boring, however. In addition to the fact that even the worst team still plays for pride after they've been eliminated from contention, there's the fact that some of the playoff teams are close enough in points that they're still playing for position and the home ice advantage that comes with it.
Here are today's games featuring playoff teams and the potential impact they could have on the NHL playoff picture for 201-2014:
Detroit Red Wings at St. Louis Blues: Both teams are in, but the Blues stand to gain or lose more in this game. The Red Wings will start on the road throughout the playoffs. The only possible exception is if they meet the Dallas Stars in the finals. The Blues are currently tied with Colorado atop the Central Division, with Colorado - who also plays today - holding the ROW tiebreaker.
Boston Bruins at New Jersey Devils: The Bruins have won the Eastern Conference outright and have the President's Trophy sewn up. They will have home ice advantage regardless of the outcome of this game. Look for them to rest their better skaters.
Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers: Philly is set. They have the tiebreaker over Columbus in ROW in the Metropolitan Division and will finish in third pace in the division, but can't catch the Rangers (whom they will likely face in the first round). Look for them to be resting up for the first round.
Tampa Bay Lightening at Washington Capitals: Here's where things get interesting in the NHL playoff picture. The Lightening are currently in third place in the Atlantic Division, but a win today would leapfrog them over the Montreal Canadiens for the top seed in the division after the division winners. The Habs are done with regular season play, so all they can do is watch the game at home and wonder who will have home ice longer.
Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens have won the Metro and can't catch the Atlantic Division champion Bruins. Win or lose, they have home ice for the first two rounds.
Colorado Rockies at Anaheim Ducks: The Anaheim Ducks have sewn up the Pacific Division and home ice advantage throughout the Conference Finals, should they advance that far. The Rockies, on the other hand, are tied in points with the St. Louis Blues atop the Central Division. Colorado owns the tie-breaker in ROW, but they need to earn at least as many points as the Blues - who also play today - in order to maintain top spot in the Central Division.
Nashville Predators at Minnesota Wild: The Preds are out, the Wild will finish with the top wildcard in the Western Conference, regardless of today's outcome. The points they earn tonight won't matter unless they make the Stanley Cup finals - and even then, they will only matter if Tampa Bay loses they end up playing them for the Cup.
Dallas Stars at Phoenix Coyotes: Had things shaken out a little differently last week, this game could have been the grand showdown for the last spot in the playoffs. As it turned out, the Stars are in, the Yotes are out and the only way anyone cares who wins this game is if the Dallas Stars ride the second wildcard spot all the way to a Stanley Cup Finals confrontation with their counterpart in the Eastern Conference, the Detroit Red Wings. If that should happen, the team who earns the most points today will have home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup finals. In the event both teams finish even in the points, the Red Wings hold the ROW tiebreaker.
All told, hockey fans are in for an interesting day watching and waiting to see where their team falls out when the gel finally sets on the 2013-2014 NHL playoff picture.
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