NHL Playoffs: East All Set, West Comes Down to the Last Day

As the Wild bow out, the NHL rolls on. SBNation Minnesota stays with the winners as the begin the battle of attrition known as the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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NHL Playoffs: East All Set, West Comes Down to the Last Day

The NHL has a knack for pushing things to the end. Blame it on the points system, with its three point games, or blame it on the shootout, or heck, blame it on the salary cap. No matter what is to blame, the NHL playoffs always seem to come down to the final day of the regular season, and this season is no different.

With the Chicago Blackhawks needing one more point to lock their spot in the post season, the Dallas Stars are in Minnesota hoping their game to finish out the entire NHL regular season schedule is a meaningful one. A Hawks loss and a Stars win over the Wild puts the Stars in the playoffs, and the defending Stanley Cup Champions to the golf course.

You have to love the NHL.

The story out East is written. All eight teams are in, all eight seeds are set. The match-ups are below, but the Washington Capitals will go in as the top seed, after the Philadelphia Flyers relinquished that spot despite holding it for most of the season.

Hockey in Minnesota is all but over, with a National Championship for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs winning their first NCAA National Championship, and the Minnesota Wild going out with a whimper. Perhaps watching some of the best hockey in the world will keep people away from the ledge for a couple weeks.

Current Playoffs matchups:

West

Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks
San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings
Detroit Red Wings vs Phoenix Coyotes
Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators

East

Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres
Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning

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NHL Playoffs: Phoenix and Anaheim Clinch, Wild Still a Player

After last night’s NHL action, the playoff picture is all but complete, and while they are out of the picture completely, the Wild could still have a role to play in deciding who goes to the dance and who doesn’t.

The Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks both clinched the playoffs last night, as the Dallas Stars cannot pass them in the standings, but the Chicago Blackhawks still have some work to do. If the Hawks do not gain a point on Sunday, they have to hope the Wild beat the Stars in the final regular season game of the NHL season. Look for the Hawks to end the speculation early.

Before today’s action, there is just one spot in each of the conferences, with the Hawks and Dallas challenging in the West, and the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers fighting for the final spot in the East.

The Canes and Rangers both play this evening, in their respective final games of the season, so that race will be settled tonight.

Playoff match-ups if the started today:

West

Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks
San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks
Detroit Red Wings vs Los Angeles Kings
Nashville Predators vs Phoenix Coyotes

East

Washington Captials vs Carolina Hurricanes
Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres
Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning

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NHL Playoffs: Flames Eliminated, Kings Clinch

Each new day brings us closer to the end and to a new beginning. The old saying is “Get into the playoffs, and anything can happen.” It is a fresh start, yet it is also the most grueling, brutal playoff in all of sports. The sacred chalice that is the Stanley Cup waits at the end, but you are going to pay dearly for it along the way.

Last night, the standings took another step toward completion as the Chicago Blackhawks win officially eliminated the Calgary Flames from contention. The win also helped the Hawks hang on to their perilous lead over the Dallas Stars for the final playoff spot.

Meanwhile, out on the west coast, the Los Angeles Kings beat the Phoenix Coyotes in a shootout to put the stamp on their playoff position. While their seeding is still not set, the Kings are in, and no one can take that away from them.

Current Matchups, if the Playoffs Started Today:

West

Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks
San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks
Detroit Red Wings vs Phoenix Coyotes
Los Angeles Kings vs Nashville Predators

East

Washington Capitals vs New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres
Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Tampa Bay Lightning

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NHL Playoffs: Starting to Take Shape in the East

With just ten days left in the NHL regular season, the playoff picture is still wide open in the west. The top three seeds, in the Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red WIngs, and San Jose Sharks have clinched not only their playoff spot, but their divisions as well.

Problem is? That’s as far as we’ve come. With just five days left in the year, spots four through eight are still undecided. While it is unlikely teams shuffle much at this point, it is certainly still possible.

So, while we may just be a game or two away from having it all in focus, right now, the west is still a hot mess. Much like the rest of the season, so it is fitting.

Out East, things are much, much clearer. While some jockeying can still be done for their respective seeds, six of the eight teams in the playoffs have clinched, and the final two spots are just one game from being determined.

Only the Carolina Hurricanes have any hope of disrupting the current playoff race in the East, but they would have to win out, and the Rangers lose both of their final games. Possible, sure, but unlikely.

By Friday, we should have this all sorted out. Except in the West, where three point games are the norm and the hockey gods hate us.

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NHL Playoffs: Who's in and Who's Out?

With the Wild officially out of the playoff picture, we turn our lonely eyes to the NHL as a whole. While the home team is out, that does not mean the passion and love of the sport dies with them. SBNation Minnesota will have updates throughout the NHL playoffs, so visit early, and visit often.

Today, we take a look at who is has their spots locked up, and who has yet to punch their ticket. 

Eastern Conference

The Philadelphia Flyers are the heavy favorites in the East, but the star studded Washington Captials have surged to catch them late in the season. Both at the top with 103 points, only a single non-shootout win separates them in the standings. Both teams are dangerous, but the Flyers have a proven track record in the playoffs, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals last season, while the Caps have yet to prove anything to anyone.

Niether team should feel safe in their positions, however, as the might Pittsburgh Penguins are just three points back, despite missing both Sidney Crosby and Evegeni Malkin. Just behind the Penguins are both the Boston Bruins, with Vezina contender Tim Thomas, and the Tampa Bay Lightning with Steven Stamkos and any number of other all-star forwards.

Still battling for their spots are the Montreal Canadiens (91 points), Buffalo Sabres (90), and the New York Rangers (89). On the outside looking in, but not yet eliminated are the Carolina Hurricanes (87) and the venerable Toronto Maples Leafs (84). The Leafs can be eliminated if they lose even a single point the rest of the season, and the real battle looks to be between the Rangers and Canes.

Western Conference

The (barf) Presidential Trophy winning (yak) Vancouver Canucks (gag) have locked up the regular season and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. They are in the same boat as the Capitals in the East. Sure, they've had a great season, but will that success translate to the post season? It never has before, so they have a great deal to prove. No one in Minnesota wants this to happen.

Moving on.

The perennial powerhouse Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks, another post season choke factory, are battling for the second seed. The safe money is on the Red Wings to make a deep run, as is the expectation, not the exception, in Detroit. 

Still looking to lock up their spot is basically the entire rest of the conference. The Los Angeles Kings (96), Phoenix Coyotes (96), Nashville Predators (95), Anaheim Ducks (93), and Chicago Blackhawks (92) are separated by just four points to sort out the seeds for those currently inside the bubble.

Only the Calgary Flames (91) and Dallas Stars (89) remain for those outside looking in, and the Hawks cannot feel comfortable in their current predicament at all. Being the defending Stanley Cup champions and not even making the playoffs would likely not sit well in Chicago, and the Hawks have the necessary talent to lock it down.

With the season winding down this week, all of this will be settled in short order. Stop by SBNation Minnesota regularly to keep updated on the playoff race and beyond.

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