With nine clubs struggling for the final four playoff spots in the Western Conference, it's tough to say whether the most gripping action during the final month will be on the ice or the out-of-town scoreboard.
The blink-and-they'll-change standings will make for a compelling conclusion, but not everyone is up to the kind of stomach-churning anxiety that will mark the stretch run. So with a nod to the TiVo generation, I'm here to fast forward to April 13 and reveal how it will all play out. Don't want to know what comes next? Consider this your spoiler alert.
Vancouver is in. This week's stumbles aside (and no, the SI mag cover curse does not apply to the dotcom Power Rankings),
It's also safe to line up for playoff tickets in Columbus.
Here's how the rest of the West will shake out.
Long-term absences of three top-six forwards (
Rinne's on a remarkable roll -- he blanked the Coyotes on Saturday for his seventh shutout of the season -- but the offense will have to move forward without
Actually, it's a bit of a soft sell to call the Blues
It'd be a great story if the Blues managed to grab a spot, but the schedule is conspiring against them. Not only is it heavy with high-end opponents, but nine of their final 14 are on the road. While they've been solid away from Scottrade Center (a conference-best 8-4-2 since the beginning of January), they'll need to play at an even higher level down the stretch to claim one of the final two spots. It'll be close.
You have to wonder where they'd be if
But the Wild way is what it is, and they're paying the price for it now. There's a chance Gaborik could swoop in at the last minute to provide some kind of boost, but it'll be too little, too late. A team that hasn't strung three wins together since the middle of November probably doesn't deserve to be in the postseason anyway.
Still, you look at their sked the rest of this month and you see the Preds, Avs, Coyotes and Oilers twice each and you think, hmmmm . . .