The shortened 48-game NHL season will be coming to an end this weekend as the top 16 teams in the league will start to prepare for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The No. 1 through No. 6 seeds in both the Western and Eastern Conferences have already clinched, so the last couple games of the season will only be crucial to a few teams. So let’s see which teams need to win to get a playoff spot.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (35-6-5) Last week: 1
Can we just take a minute to recognize that the ‘Hawks have only lost six games this season? They split their games this week, but have clinched both the top spot in the Western Conference and the Presidents' Trophy. Those are some pretty impressive feats, but can it last to the end of the playoffs?
2. Pittsburgh Penguins (35-11-0) Last week: 2
The Pens won another two this week and clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference. This shouldn’t be all that surprising when you look at their all-star roster, especially when they have Chris Kunitz leading the team with 22 goals.
3. Anaheim Ducks (29-11-6) Last week: 3
If anyone can beat the Blackhawks, the Ducks will be able to do it. The Ducks clinched the Pacific Division with another two wins this week as Ryan Getzlaf continues to be a key leader to his team.
4. Toronto Maple Leafs (25-16-5) Last week: 6
The Leafs are in the playoffs, it’s official. No really, they are actually in the playoffs this year. According to screencaps from social media sites, the reason is due to goaltender James Reimer being the ‘second coming of Christ.’ Oh yeah and because James Van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri are pretty good at finding the back of the net, too.
5. Vancouver Canucks (26-13-7) Last week: 8
The Canucks also clinched their division with another two wins as they head to the playoffs. It’s obvious that the Sedins are good at finding each other on the ice, but will net minder Roberto Luongo choke again this year?
6. Montreal Canadiens (27-14-5) Last week: 4
Since clinching their playoff spot, the Canadiens have been really off their game. Goalie Carey Price was benched a couple times this week due to poor performances and the team lost another two games. Are the Habs going to tank during the playoffs?
7. Boston Bruins (27-13-5) Last week: 5
It took the Bruins four tries just to get a playoff berth, but they finally got one. Despite a solid record, they continue to struggle. They lost another two games this week, so captain Zdeno Chara needs to do something to lead his team far into the playoffs.
8. St. Louis Blues (27-17-2) Last week: 11
The Blues may have struggled this season — mostly due to injuries, but coach Ken Hitchcock knows what he’s doing. AHL callup Jake Allen has also been pretty solid as a much-needed backup in net while Jaroslav Halak is still injured.
9. Los Angeles Kings (26-16-5) Last week: 9
The Kings clinched a playoff spot with another two wins this week. Flyers fans may be bitter at how well Jeff Carter has been doing with the Kings, but as hockey fans you have to applaud him for the offensive strength he has given L.A.
10. San Jose Sharks (25-15-7) Last week: 10
The Sharks have been pretty consistent this season as they won another two games and earned a spot in the playoffs. Even though they traded a few pieces this season, Logan Couture has been a pleasant surprise with his 20 goals this season.
11. Ottawa Senators (23-16-6) Last week: 7
The Sens have not clinched a spot yet, but they are so close they can almost taste it. First they need to pull themselves out of a two-game skid. Can Craig Anderson back them up in net while Daniel Alfredsson leads them on the ice?
12. New York Islanders (24-16-6) Last week: 14
Is this the bizarro NHL season? The Isles have clinched the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Yes, John Tavares has systematically led this team to a playoff berth as they won another two games this week.
13. Washington Capitals (26-18-2) Last week: 13
The Caps logged another two wins this week and were able to clinch a spot in the playoffs along with clinching the Southeast Division Tuesday night. Alexander Ovechkin has really put his team on the map by logging 31 goals this season.
14. Minnesota Wild (25-18-3) Last week: 12
The Wild are on the verge of getting into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, but with another two losses this week they have been unable to clinch. Zach Parise has been able to find the back of the net with help from Mikko Koivu, but they have to up the ante if they want to see the playoffs.
15. Detroit Red Wings (23-16-8) Last week: 15
The Red Wings usurped the Blue Jackets' eighth seed in the Western Conference as they logged a second win this week Wednesday night. Captain Henrik Zetterberg must have given his team the pep talk of a lifetime. But can they remain in place to clinch a spot in the playoffs?
16. New York Rangers (24-18-4) Last week: 16
The Rangers are another team that is close to a playoff berth. They won three of their four games this week as they are trying to make a late run at the last spot in the East. If Rick Nash and Derek Stepan have anything to say about it, they will lead the team there.
17. Columbus Blue Jackets (22-17-7) Last week: 18
The Blue Jackets split their games this week, but like the Wild and the Senators they are very close to reaching a playoff berth. If Sergei Bobrovsky can hold his on in their last few games this team will be in the playoffs.
18. Winnipeg Jets (24-20-3) Last week: 18
If the Jets want to defeat the Rangers for the last spot in the playoffs, they cannot afford to lose any more games. This week they lost their last two out of three, so Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler need to be able to find the back of the net in their last couple of games.
19. New Jersey Devils (18-18-10) Last week: 21
Despite winning three out of their last four games, the Devils were officially eliminated from the playoffs when they lost to the Rangers, 4-1 on Saturday. It’s clear that goaltender Martin Brodeur is starting to lose his touch. Is this his last year in NHL?
20. Dallas Stars (22-20-4) Last week: 19
The Stars are technically still in contention for a playoff spot if they can add four more points and beat out the Red Wings for the No. 8 seed. However, they did lose three of their four games this week, so don’t count on it.
21. Buffalo Sabres (20-21-6) Last week:22
The Sabres lost another two games this week and still are terrible, even with Thomas Vanek carrying the team with his 20 goals this season.
22. Philadelphia Flyers (21-22-3) Last week: 23
The Flyers won two games this week, but without a playoff run it doesn’t even matter. Besides Jakub Voracek, the whole team has let fans down this season. That ‘C’ on Claude Giroux’s chest doesn't stand for 'captain', it stands for 'cursed.'
23. Phoenix Coyotes (20-18-8) Last week: 20
The Coyotes may have won on Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks, but they went into the game knowing that they were eliminated from the playoffs.
24. Carolina Huricanes (19-24-3) Last week: 25
The ‘Canes split their games this week and have added a third Staal brother this week by calling up brother Jarred Staal from the minors. Is it going to help them? Probably not.
25. Tampa Bay Lightning (18-24-4) Last week: 24
Slow clap for Steve Stamkos and Martin St. Louis for sticking around as this team crumbles to the ground. They did manage another win on Wednesday night against Toronto, but they lost their other two games this week and are out of the running for the playoffs.
26. Calgary Flames (19-23-4) Last week: 26
The Flames won two of their games last week and if Mike Cammalleri can continue to find the back of the net in their next two games they might actually have a chance to at least improve their record.
27. Edmonton Oilers (17-22-7) Last week: 27
Some things are consistent in the NHL, and the Oilers are one of those things by being consistently mediocre as they dropped another three games this week. Say what you want about Taylor Hall, he may be a good player, but his team is still awful.
28. Nashville Predators (16-21-9) Last week:28
I was wrong earlier in the season by putting the Predators on such a high pedestal. They are straight up terrible this season. What happened to the confident goalie Pekka Rinne was last season?
29. Colorado Avalanche (15-24-7) Last week: 29
It’s been a rough season for new captain Gabriel Landeskog as his team continues to be terrible. They lost another two games this week, which actually might be good for them since they are looking to the future of this team and the draft lottery.
30. Florida Panthers (14-26-6) Last week: 30
Does the NHL give an award for worst team ever? No? Well there's always the chance the Panthers will get lucky with the draft lottery this year. The team snapped a seven-game skid this week by finally logging a win, but they really just need to look to the upcoming draft.