This is the second to last weekend of the NHL season. There is still a lot to be decided between now and the beginning of the NHL playoffs. Only six teams have secured playoff spots before Friday’s games. Only six teams have been officially eliminated, and only two of those from the Eastern Conference. Saturday features a whopping 12 games, while Sunday brings us six to open up April. That’s a lot of hockey. Let’s take a look at some of those games.
There are two matinee games Saturday. Boston visits the Islanders, and Ottawa visits Philadelphia. The Bruins have more or less survived their scare from the Senators, but if they take care of business here on the road that will be basically locked up, if not officially locked up. Ottawa, meanwhile, still has to worry about missing the playoffs altogether. They have a tough matchup with Philadelphia. That’s a nice afternoon game.
Buffalo and Washington, both in a desperate fight for a playoff spot, face majorly disappointing Canadian teams. The Sabres are in Toronto, while the Capitals host Montreal. Both Buffalo and Washington should win those games, and they can’t afford to blow these matchups. Winnipeg plays Tampa Bay. While it is very unlikely either of those teams will make the playoffs, that is basically an elimination game. Chicago takes on Nashville, that’s the best matchup of the day, even if it doesn’t have the biggest stakes with both teams secured of no worse than the sixth seed at this point.
Los Angeles faces Minnesota while Phoenix hosts Anaheim. The Wild and Ducks have been eliminated, but the Kings and Coyotes are currently in eighth and seventh respectively. Calgary takes on Vancouver. That game could eliminate the Flames, especially if they lose to the Avalanche tonight. Lastly, Dallas takes on San Jose. In terms of stakes, that is the biggest game. Man, imagine if you predicted the Stanley Cup Finals matchup this season would be the Sharks versus the Capitals. You may look quite foolish if that were the case. An April Fool, as it were.
Sunday’s NHL on NBC game is a possible preview of what would be an amazing first round series: Pittsburgh against Philadelphia. That’s a top notch game. Ottawa faces the Islanders. If the Sens just manage to win that game, it could go a long way. Florida, who basically have the Southeast locked up, visit Detroit, who blew a game against Columbus in their quest for the four seed. They play Nashville tonight. That’s quite a big game in terms of home ice advantage. The top two seeds in the East, the Rangers and the Bruins, square off. That’s an exciting matchup, even if the stakes don’t seem that huge at this point. Although, the Rangers haven’t clinched the top spot yet. The last game of note sees Chicago hosting Minnesota.
After this weekend, we will be in April and be oh so close to the NHL playoffs. More question be answered. Maybe more questions will be raised. It’s all very exciting. Enjoy the games.