Well, as it was said on Thursday morning, the chance of all five available playoff spots being taken up was fairly positive and sure enough, everything went the way of making the final day of the regular season a little less exciting. Two spots taken up in the East and three in the West, snapped up by virtue of a solid combination of wins and losses.
In the East, the Buffalo Sabres lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, which was more or less the catalyst to the East clinching all around for the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals, who played against each other in the evening. With the Sabres loss, they couldn't catch either Florida or Washington and since the Capitals won in overtime, they have at least kept their chances for a Southeast Division title alive.
In the West, the Dallas Stars took a loss to the Nashville Predators, which sealed their fate and the Colorado Avalanche died a quick and painless death, as they only needed to drop 1 point, but they dropped both points against the Blue Jackets. That means that the Kings, Sharks and Coyotes all clinched their births officially into the playoffs.
Well, now there is only a little bit of jockeying for position left in each Conference. In the East, the Rangers have clinched top spot, but they will wait to see who they face, which could be either the Senators or the Capitals. The Bruins have clinched the Northeast Division and 2nd place in the East and they could face either the Panthers, Capitals or Senators before it is all said and done. The Panthers are volatile at the 3rd position, as the Capitals could still win the division, thanks to the tie-breakers. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are now locked in for the 4th and 5th place teams, which is likely the series du jour and the New Jersey Devils will await the winner of the Southeast Division.
In the West, the Canucks and Blues are still fighting for top spot in the Conference, with St. Louis Blues having a game in hand (on Friday) and the wins tie-breaker. The Pacific Division is still wide open, with the Kings currently owning the position, due to the tie-breaker over the San Jose Sharks and the two will play on Saturday, playing for the division title. Nashville and Detroit will likely hold the 4th and 5th spots in the conference when this is all over, but where they finish between the two will be decided on Saturday. The Predators have a 1-point lead and the tie-break, so they only need 1 point to clinch 4th and home-ice against the Red Wings. The Blackhawks, who sit in 6th place, should be stuck in 6th and will await the Pacific Division winner. San Jose could finish either 3rd, 7th or 8th at this point, while the Coyotes are still in the mix for the division title with two games to play and they have their fate in their own hands, if they can win both games.
As you can see, the West is a much bigger shootout for playoff positioning than the East is, so you can take this into consideration when you're doing your homework right now for the playoff pool.
On Friday night, there is only one game on the schedule, the St. Louis Blues play host to the Phoenix Coyotes, which should have a great effect on the playoff picture in the West. A St. Louis win will put them in the driver's seat for 1st place in the West, while a Phoenix win will put the Coyotes in the same seat for the Pacific Division title. An overtime loss for the Blues will hand the reins over to the Canucks, while the Coyotes would still be in the mix out West, but it would be a muddled mess. A very intriguing game, to say the least.