The National Hockey League season typically ends on a Sunday, but this season, for whatever reason, the league scheduled 15 games—all 30 teams, to play at some point on Saturday as a prelude to the playoffs.
Of course, all the playoff match ups were set Thursday night with everything falling into place for Washington, Dallas, San Jose, Phoenix and Los Angeles as the late entrants to the dance, but that still doesn’t mean that seeding and, just as important, draft lottery position, can’t change on the league’s final day.
So we may as well spend the afternoon going through every game and determining what’s on the line for each, starting with a game that is already in progress. My, the team that is ahead in this one certainly looks strong today, don’t they?
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings
The first tie-breaker is the “greater number of games won, excluding games won in the Shootout”. With a Chicago win in regulation, the teams will be tied at 101 points and 39 regulation or overtime victories (ROWs). The second tie-breaker is “the greater number of points earned in games between the two clubs”. Chicago have earned eight points in the five games played between the teams this season to Detroit’s four (Chicago are 3-0-2) in the season series.
So, Chicago winning in regulation, as they’ve managed to do thrice against the Red Wings this year, would result in the Blackhawks taking the fifth seed away from Detroit, sending them to Nashville. Detroit, for their part, can either host Nashville (by winning and seeing a Preds’ regulation loss) or get sent to the winner of the Pacific Division champion as the six-seed. An overtime loss would certainly result in conceding home ice to a dangerous Preds team, while we know the travel doesn’t do Detroit any favours.
Also, this game is probably over by the time this is being read, so perhaps the above was an analysis of what could have been on the line.
Ottawa Senators @ New Jersey Devils
Nothing is on the line here for the Devils, but the Senators hold onto the seventh seed if they pick up a point. A loss and a Capitals win means that they play the New York Rangers, but given the fact they were 1-5 against the Bruins this season and 3-1 against the Rangers, that may not be a bad idea.
Buffalo Sabres @ Boston Bruins
All that’s on the line here is pride. The Sabres, whose open wallets this summer cost the team $80M and zero return in playoff revenue, would have normally had a chance to get revenge against the Bruins for Milan Lucic’s hit on Ryan Miller earlier this season, but Boston have handled their goalies carefully down the stretch, locked in that second seed. They’ll host Ottawa or Washington.
Philadelphia Flyers @ Pittsburgh Penguins
Blood. Lots and lots of blood.
Anaheim Ducks @ Calgary Flames
Anaheim can finish anywhere between 5th and 8th last in the NHL, depending on the results of other games, giving them a range of draft picks between 2nd overall and 9th. Best case scenario for the Ducks here is a loss in regulation and a win from the Islanders combined with points from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For Calgary, well, it’s all just lottery seeding at this point, although I’m quite convinced that with four teams within a point at the bottom of the lottery standings (17th and 20th overall) scoreboard watching could be a chore. They’re also at a disadvantage because they have 33 ROWs to Colorado and Buffalo’s 32, so every team getting points won’t cut it for Calgary, they’ll need to lose outright. Also, we should watch Jarome Iginla play, because you never know when it may be his last game with the Flames.
Washington Capitals @ New York Rangers
It would be funny if the Capitals trounced the Rangers, coming away with a “wow, we can really light up these guys” only for the Caps to instead run into the Bruins instead thanks to an Ottawa loss of some sort. I remember hearing Rob Pizzo on a podcast talking about how he’d love to see Alex Ovechkin go on a tear down the stretch: Ovechkin has scored 10 goals in 12 games, which is pretty cool.
Matching Vancouver’s point total on the day will give the Presidents’ Trophy to the New York Rangers. They own the tie breakers against both the Canucks and the St. Louis Blues.
Toronto Maple Leafs @ Montreal Canadiens
Montreal, oddly enough, can still get 29th overall if they lose this one and Edmonton win their later game, but a win doesn’t drastically harm their lottery hopes, as they’re three points behind the Islanders. Toronto is in the same situation as Anaheim, except they own the tie-breaker versus the Ducks, putting them ahead in the standings rather than behind, which I think is bullshit. Beating Anaheim earlier in the season should grant them a better pick, not a worse one.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Winnipeg Jets
Steven Stamkos can hit his 60th goal in this game, which should be pretty fun, but he’d better not score too many; a win in this game could be the difference between picking 3rd overall (they can finish as low as 7th and win the lottery) and 10th overall, but most likely it’s the difference between 7th and 10th. Winnipeg can only go so low as 8th, if they really want to tank.
New York Islanders @ Columbus Blue Jackets
The Islanders really hold the wild card as far as the lottery goes. They can lose and finish fourth last in the league, but they can still jump over both Anaheim and Toronto. The Blue Jackets have already sewn up last place and should call Nail Yakupov’s name, barring anything catastrophic in the draft lottery.
Carolina Hurricanes @ Florida Panthers
I find these two sports teams weird, in that, in other sports leagues, teams named the Carolina Panthers and Miami Hurricanes exist. What’s also weird is that, with a single point, Florida can clinch the Southeast Division, and I think that that’s the outcome I’m hoping for, for no reason other than this: they can also clinch the record for overtime losses, held by the 2009 Lightning. The teams are tied for 18.
Carolina, for their part, have just 32 ROWs, lower than Tampa, who they’re tied with, but they can leapfrog one of the Bolts or the Jets (as they’re playing each other) with a win, finishing no better than 9th last. Two teams, Anaheim and Minnesota, can still pass them, but Toronto can’t.
Phoenix Coyotes @ Minnesota Wild
Now we get into the Western Conference crazy pants, starting at 8:00 pm Eastern. After 81 games and a win over St. Louis in the only game Friday, the ‘Yotes hold the top spot, but given points must be given to San Jose or Los Angeles (who both have 94 and play each other in Game 1230/1230) the Coyotes need a point to clinch the Pacific Division.
An overtime loss will do it… should San Jose win the later game, which should start right around the conclusion of Coyotes/Wild. But if LA wins, Phoenix will need the full two points, since Los Angeles will be tied with Phoenix in ROWs (35) and also hold an 8-7 advantage in points earned in head-to-head games. I’m not envisioning a scenario in which Phoenix falls to 8th, regardless of what Sports Club Stats says. Looks like it’s between 3rd and 7th for them.
St. Louis Blues @ Dallas Stars
The Stars are in the same situation as Calgary mentioned above. It’s sort of a crap-shoot at this point, but Dallas is at the disadvantage because they have 89 points to Colorado, Buffalo and Calgary’s 88, and 35 ROWs, which can’t be passed by any of those three clubs. With a single point, they clinch 17th overall and the worst possible draft position, 14th overall, meaning they were the best non-playoff club and get the worst pick. They need to lose in regulation and hope for wins from the other clubs to improve their standing.
As for St. Louis, catching the Rangers is not a possibility, but they can still catch Vancouver if they win and the Canucks don’t pick up at least a point. With 44 ROWs to Vancouver’s 42, they can’t be surpassed in the first tie-break. Win, and put pressure on the Canucks.
Nashville Predators @ Colorado Avalanche
You know, a funny thing happened during Colorado’s playoff drive. Jamie McGinn scored a goal with :02 seconds on the clock to tie up a hockey game at 4, Peter Mueller scored in the shootout and Semyon Varlamov got all three shootout shots to give Colorado a 5-4 win. In retrospect, dumb move, because that came against Buffalo, which will hurt their draft standing by a spot if Buffalo don’t beat them in points tonight, because that is the tie-breaker between those two clubs.
Nashville knows by now whether a single point will get them home-ice advantage or not, and it may make a slight difference. Since the lockout, the Predators are 7-11 on home ice in the playoffs and 5-11 away from home, so…
They could either host Detroit, play on the road in Detroit or host Chicago on Wednesday or Thursday.
Edmonton Oilers @ Vancouver Canucks
It’s like the old saying goes: “stay tied after 60 MIN, and you’re in”.
Well, for Vancouver anyway. I have a broken memory of the Canucks playing the Oilers on the final game of the 2004 season, needing a win to clinch the division against the juggernaut Avalanche who had held the title for years. They won 5-2, with two goals coming from veteran Mike Keane. Those are the kinds of games that make you think that “clutch” is a real, living, breathing thing, and it usually helps if you ignore the fact that Mike Keane got no points in Vancouver’s ensuing playoff series with Calgary, and some Swedish guy nobody thought knew how to win was dominant.
Edmonton can draft anywhere between 1st and 4th, depending on how the lottery balls fall. What is really important to them is that, should Montreal lose in regulation, the Oilers do not win this game and surpass them in the standings. Defending the pick is key.
Oh, right, Vancouver can still win the Presidents’ Trophy is they record (n + 1) points in this game, where n represents the number of points New York earned. I’m sure Mark Lee will explain it to the viewer in a much less interesting tone. It’s also worth noting that the team can’t affect who it faces in the playoffs, so it’s best not worrying about.
Los Angeles Kings @ San Jose Sharks
The Main Event of the Evening, so to speak. Well, the Main Event of the Evening, should Phoenix lose. Follow this handy guide:
If Phoenix have earned two points: then the Sharks and Kings are playing for 7th and 8th and nothing more.
If Phoenix have earned one point: Los Angeles can still catch them, as noted, if they win this game, and it doesn’t even have to be in regulation. In this scenario, if the Sharks win, LA still finish 8th in the Conference.
If Phoenix do not earn any points: The winner of this game takes the Pacific Division crown and all the notoriety that goes with it, but any loser of this game past regulation cannot pass the Coyotes, who will then fall comfortably to seventh.