By Mike McMahon
The NHL is one night closer to figuring out who will earn the right to gut it out for Lord Stanley's Cup. All three games on Monday night carried playoff implications as some teams had their hopes of playing for the hardware all but confirmed, while others were officially crossed off the list of contenders.
With a 1-0 victory over the Winnipeg Jets, the Minnesota Wild are close to punching a ticket to the playoffs, thanks to the recent success of a very confident Ilya Bryzgalov. With three games left on its schedule, Minnesota sits with 94 points, eight ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes who have four to play. A loss by Phoenix or a point for Minnesota will send the Wild to the playoffs as the West's top wild card.
Need to know: #mnwild clinches playoff berth Tuesday with W or OT/SOL, or loss of any kind by PHX. Clinches top wild card spot with a win
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) April 8, 2014
On the other end of the spectrum, things are gloomier in New Jersey after the Devils suffered a 1-0 defeat by the Calgary Flames, a loss that also clinched a postseason spot for their cross-river rivals, the idle New York Rangers. The loss left the Devils three points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and four behind the Detroit Red Wings, both of whom have four games remaining compared to the Devils' three.
The ten possible scenarios in which the Devils can make the playoffs has been greatly trimmed. With a best case scenario putting New Jersey at 90 points, the Devils will need some help from the Jackets and Wings for the dominoes to fall in their favor. Four points for Columbus and three points for Detroit in their remaining games will end the Devils' season. Meanwhile, for the first time in six years, Vancouver won't be heading to the postseason. In his NHL debut, Ducks goalie John Gibson eliminated the Canucks while becoming the youngest player in league history to record a shutout in his debut: a 3-0 victory that incited "Fire Gillis" chants directed at the team's GM from the restless Vancouver crowd.