The Minnesota Wild pulled off a big victory Saturday when they defeated the Western Conference’s top team in the Calgary Flames. Not only was it a big win, but with five straight victories, it has propelled Minnesota into the final wild card spot for the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs, something that seemed unlikely just a week ago. Suddenly what looked to already be a contentious race for the final playoff spot, it has become even more muddled as four teams are vying for the final two wild card spots.
The Dallas Stars currently hold the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference with 71 points, while Minnesota owns that second spot with 70 points. However, two other teams are right there, including the Arizona Coyotes who have 69 points, while the Colorado Avalanche have 68 points.
Dallas is the most interesting team as they were buyers at the trade deadline, picking up defenseman Ben Lovejoy and Mats Zuccarello. However, while Zuccarello looked to be a good fit who energized the Stars’ struggling second line after posting a goal and an assist in his first game, he broke his arm late in that first game after blocking a shot and will now miss at least three more weeks. That hasn’t stopped the Stars, however, who have won two in a row and three of their last four.
The Coyotes have also been red hot, having gone from a team that had almost no chance at a playoff spot earlier this year to a team that has won six straight and nine of their last 11 games and actually could catch the Vegas Golden Knights as they are only four points behind them in the Pacific Division. All of this is with a gluttony of injuries to Coyotes’ players. The team is expected to get Jason Demers back from injury on Tuesday and could get Michael Grabner back within the week. Throw in the impressive play of Darcy Kuemper in goal and the team has been hard to beat.
Colorado is the forgotten team, who early on seemed to be the obvious candidate to seize the third seed in the Central Division, but the team bottomed out, struggling immensely throughout December, January and part of February. However, the Avalanche have won six of their last nine and look to be fighting their way back into the playoffs. Armed with some of the best players in the NHL in Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, the Avalanche have every chance to force their way back into the playoffs.
So, which team has the best chance to claim a spot in the Western Conference playoffs?
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Arizona is 6 behind VGK but have a game in hand (probably 8 after today with 2 games)
Dallas and Colorado get in
A break down of each teams remaining schedule would be helpful. Minny has the toughest by far.