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.
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.
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.
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.