If you’re a fan of playoff races and warm-and-fuzzy stories, tonight would be an excellent night to retire to the barcalounger with the remote and refreshments within reach. There are 12 games on the docket in the NHL tonight and while some are more important than others, there’s something intriguing to find in almost every game. Except for the Montreal-Detroit game. That one’s a dog with fleas.
In Vancouver you have the Sedin twins playing the last home game of their Hall of Fame (we think) careers on home ice. Roberto Luongo will play his 1,000th career game tonight and John Tavares may very well be saying goodbye to Islanders fans. Or not.
Here’s the rundown of each of tonight’s games and the implications they will have:
Toronto at New Jersey: A huge game for the Devils, who could pull off what was unthinkable before the season and secure a playoff spot with a victory on home ice. And if the Pittsburgh-Columbus game ends in regulation, the Devils could move into third spot in the Metropolitan Division.
New York Rangers at New York Islanders: Watch to see whether Tavares picks up the puck after this game, his last of the season at the Barclays Center. Tavares has given absolutely no indication what his plans are for next season, but he’ll almost certainly get a standing ovation. Or several.
Carolina at Philadelphia: A Flyers’ win, coupled with a Florida loss either in regulation or overtime, would clinch a playoff spot for Philadelphia and further muddle the race for second and third and in the Metropolitan Division.
Nashville at Washington: With a win over the Capitals tonight, the Predators would clinch both the Central Division and Western Conference regular season titles and home-ice advantage through the conference final. They’d also take an enormous step toward securing the Presidents’ Trophy. For the Capitals, Alex Ovechkin is trying to become an eight-time winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Pittsburgh at Columbus: The Metro Division is far too much of a dog’s breakfast to declare this a first-round preview, but if the Penguins win in regulation and Florida and Philadelphia lose in either regulation or overtime, Pittsburgh secures second in the division and home-ice advantage in the first round.
Montreal at Detroit: Two terrible Original Six teams playing out the string in miserable seasons, so we don’t have much. The Canadiens could enhance their chances of a second or third seed in the draft lottery with a regulation loss.
Boston at Florida: Luongo will become just the third goalie in NHL history to play 1,000 games with the start tonight, which will look good on the Hall of Fame resume. It’s also a huge game for both teams. The Panthers pretty much have to run the table in their last three games to have any hope of securing a playoff spot. A regulation loss would give the Devils a playoff spot and put the Panthers out of the playoffs if the Flyers manage to pick up a point. The Bruins have a game in hand on the Lightning and a win in regulation or overtime would give them a leg up on the Lightning and tie them in ROW.
Calgary at Winnipeg: It would take a miracle, but the Jets still have a slim shot at winning the President’s Trophy and securing home ice through the playoffs. Regulation losses to end the season only stand to improve the Flames' lottery odds, too.
Arizona at Vancouver: Get the tissues out for this one, the Sedins’ last game in front of the fans who used to hate them, but have grown to adore them. The game also has significant draft lottery implications and the Coyotes could continue their winning ways in games that are meaningless.
Minnesota at Los Angeles: This one is interesting. The Kings have secured a playoff spot, but would they rather play the San Jose Sharks or Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs? This game will go a long way to determining that. A Kings win coupled with a San Jose regulation loss would vault the Kings into second place in the Pacific.
Colorado at San Jose: The Avalanche have cooled off lately, but a win would inch them closer to securing a playoff berth and keeping Nathan MacKinnon in the discussion for the Hart Trophy. The Blues will have a game in hand on Colorado after tonight so it’s imperative they win. A Sharks win would give them 100 points for the first time in four seasons and improve their chances of finishing second in the Pacific and securing home ice in the first round.
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