With the NHL regular season winding down and the Stanley Cup playoffs rapidly approaching, every night on the schedule has huge implications on the structuring for the postseason. Last night was no different and it featured some great match-ups that have led to some interesting headlines.
Starting in the twin cities where the Wild are suddenly collapsing faster than a fold up tent bought at a garage sale after losing 4-1 to the suddenly surging Calgary Flames. The loss was the second straight for the Wild and in the last ten games they are 3-6-1 leading to a drop in the standings from the middle of the pack to seventh as of today.
Minnesota doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy of missing the playoffs providing they can win just one of their remaining three games that has them up against the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche. Two of those clubs are out of the playoffs and could pose a threat to the Wild given they have nothing to play for. But when you consider the Wild have owned the Oilers over the past few years I’d say Wild fans can get ready for the second season in Minnesota.
As far as the Flames go, I recall doing a piece on why they failed at this year’s trade deadline. In that piece I mentioned that this group of mediocre, veteran forwards will likely put together a modest winning streak that’ll see them jump up the standings to the point where they’re caught in no-man’s land. They can’t make the playoffs but now they sit in twelfth place in the west and are on the outside looking in for the draft lottery. While this year’s lottery has changed where any team that doesn’t make the playoffs can win the first overall pick, the Flames chances are diminishing with every victory. So much re-building the proper way hey Feaster.
Staying in Alberta, the Edmonton Oilers are a complete mess right now and could be on the verge of yet another first overall pick. How embarrassing would that be for the once proud franchise.
The Oilers lost to the Ducks last night by a 3-1 margin, a game that saw them grossly outplayed for most of the sixty minutes. They’ve been passed by the Flames in the standings and with four games remaining, the Oilers are officially eliminated from the playoffs. Make it seven straight years with no postseason in Edmonton and as mentioned, the draft lottery is suddenly a sad reality for the Oilers and their faithful. Looking at their remaining schedule the Oilers lock horns with the Ducks, Wild, Blackhawks, and Canucks. Not exactly a cake walk to finishing the year with some dignity and respect. I wonder if Craig MacTavish is regretting his decision to accept the GM job? That has to be one of the worst GM jobs in hockey right now because this team is a mess.
The Oilers could learn a thing or two from the cruising Blue Jackets who are on the verge of completing one of the greatest stories of this shortened NHL season. Columbus was picked by many to finish next to or dead last in the standings and now are closing in on securing their playoff ticket. Sitting in eighth position, three points up on the struggling Detroit Red Wings, the Jackets only have two games remaining to the Wings four. The good news for Columbus is that they face two non-playoff teams in the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars. The bad news is the Stars are playing some great hockey themselves of late and are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, meaning they’ll be guns-a-blazing.
You don’t have to look very far when wondering what the key to the Jackets success has been; Sergei Bobrovsky. Sure the deadline deal that landed them Marion Gaborik has helped, but Bobrovsky should be included in the Hart Trophy conversation as league MVP.