As the dust settled in the NHL on Saturday night, the playoff situation in the Eastern Conference was cleared up, but over in the West they were left with questions still unanswered as the top eight teams jockeyed for position. Only the Vancouver Canucks, who wrapped up the Presidents Trophy a week ago, were comfortably set. It was a free-for-all for the rest of the conference.
With the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings looking to make major leaps up the standings, and the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes aiming to cement their seeds in the postseason, things were wild on the penultimate night of the regular season.
It all began with the Predators, who would have locked up the fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round had they beaten the St. Louis Blues, but were unable to as they fell 2-0. This opened up the door for a number of teams, including the Kings and Ducks, who battled it out in Anaheim.
The Kings began the night in sixth place with 98 points, with the Ducks breathing down their neck in seventh with 97 points. The Ducks won the game 2-1 and combined with Nashville losing, jumped all the way up to fourth and will start the playoffs at home as the fourth seed—something that would have seemed crazy just a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, with the loss, the Kings drop to seventh and could finish as low as eighth, depending on Sunday's results.
In San Jose, the Sharks took down the Coyotes 3-1 and secured the second seed, while the Phoenix loss sees them slip down to sixth.
So after all that, the top four seeds are locked into place with the Canucks, Sharks, Red Wings and Ducks waiting until Sunday to see who they'll be hosting in the first round.
The rest is up to Chicago Blackhawks, who will face off against Detroit Red Wings, and Dallas Stars, who visit the Minnesota Wild. The Hawks currently sit in eighth with 97 points, two points ahead of the Stars in ninth.
With a single point the Hawks will book their ticket to the postseason, but with a win in regulation they'd jump all the way to the fifth spot and meet the Ducks in the first round. A Stars loss of any kind would also send the Hawks to the playoffs. A Chicago regulation loss would open the door for the Stars, who need to win before the shootout to sneak into eighth spot—the highest they can finish—and send the defending champions home early.
At this point, the possibilities are seemingly endless as multiple scenarios remain, but if you're still confused, it'll all be set by Sunday night. The first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs kicks off on Wednesday, April 13. Buckle up.
Heading into Sunday's matchups, the current standings are as follows:
(1) Vancouver Canucks—117 points
(2) San Jose Sharks—105 points
(3) Detroit Red Wings—102 points
(4) Anaheim Ducks—99 points
(5) Nashville Predators—99 points
(6) Phoenix Coyotes—99 points
(7) Los Angeles Kings—98 points
(8) Chicago Blackhawks—97 points
(9) Dallas Stars—95 points
The Hawks visit the Red Wings at 12:30 PM ET on Sunday afternoon, while the Stars will visit the Wild in the final game of the 2010-11 NHL season at 6:00 PM ET.