As last day of regular season approaches, playoff race heats up
The Pro Side
Published: Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 23:04
This Saturday will be the last day of the regular season for the NHL, and while teams like Buffalo, Washington, San Jose, Dallas and Colorado are still fighting for the last seed in their conferences, the playoff picture is starting to clear up. Keeping in mind that some teams might change positions with these last few games, here is a brief look at two exciting potential matchups.
Flyers vs. Penguins
These two teams have occupied the four and five spots in the East for the past few months and are virtually guaranteed to face each other in the first round. They will have met three times since March 18, including the season finale in Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Penguins score more than anyone behind leading scorer Evgeni Malkin. Claude Giroux, the league’s third-leading scorer, anchors a Flyers offense that is second in scoring. Six goals were scored in the third period of last Sunday’s meeting alone. The bad blood between these in-state rivals will only heighten the intensity of this potential matchup.
Kings vs. Blackhawks
The Western Conference is still difficult to predict, with a number of teams within just one or two points of each other, but if the standings hold this matchup would pit a high-powered Chicago offense against Los Angeles and Milford native goalie Jonathan Quick, who sports a 1.89 GAA. In four meetings this season, the Kings are 3-1 with two shutouts, but Chicago has been hot lately, going 10-2-2 in March after a rough February. The Hawks’ Jonathan Toews has been out with a concussion but should be back come playoff time. Corey Crawford has mainly been handling netminding duties for Chicago, but Ray Emery has held his own in the net as well. With the caveat that Los Angeles finishes with a home-and-home against San Jose, a team battling for its playoff life, and Phoenix could very well gain enough points to displace them as the third seed, this potential matchup would definitely be an exciting one from out West.