Thursday's results in the NHL provided several answers about the Nashville Predators impending appearance in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
A Chicago Blackhawks regulation loss to the St. Louis Blues kept Nashville ahead by two points and with two more ROW (Regulation and Overtime Wins) than Chicago, meaning the Predators are assured of finishing second in the Central Division. Regardless of the outcomes in Saturday's games (a day that will see all 30 NHL teams in action), the Preds now know that Games One and Two (and Five and Seven if necessary) of the Western Conference Quarterfinals will be played at Bridgestone Arena. The Preds concluded the 2014-15 regular season with a 28-9-4 record in their own barn - good for the second most home wins in the NHL.
Nashville officially learned where they'll begin the postseason next week, and they also saw their list of potential first-round opponents narrow to two following the night's action. A 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks helped the Blues claim the Central Division crown, while a 1-0 shootout loss to the Avalanche locked the Jets into the West's second Wild Card Spot. Both Winnipeg and and St. Louis are now off the table as first-round foes of Nashville.
The Predators will face the third-ranked team in the Central Division in the first round of the playoffs, and Saturday's action will determine whether that spot will belong to the Blackhawks or Minnesota Wild. How the Predators first-round foe will be determined:
- Any points gained by the Blackhawks on Saturday ensures them of No. 3 in the Central (or if the Wild add one or zero points).
- A Wild victory (of any kind), combined with a Hawks regulation loss, would make Minnesota the Predators playoff opponent. (The Wild currently have three more ROW than the Blackhawks and would win the tie created by the teams if Minnesota added two points and Chicago none).
- On Saturday, Minnesota faces the Blues in St. Louis at 2 p.m. (CT). The Wild hold a 2-0-1 record versus the Blues this season, with Minnesota claiming two wins in March.
- The Blackhawks will take on the Avalanche in Denver at 8 p.m. on Saturday. The Hawks have a 2-2-0 mark against the Avs this campaign; Colorado has won the teams' last two meetings.
Nashville concludes the regular season in Dallas on Saturday evening (at 7 p.m. CT). The playoffs begin April 15.
- A 86.4 percent chance of meeting the Blackhawks in the first round
- A 13.6 percent chance of playing the Wild in round one
The two possible playoff opponents for the Preds in the Western Conference Quarterfinals:
Chicago Blackhawks: (81 gp: 48-27-6, 102 pts)*
Leading scorer: Jonathan Toews (66 pts)
Remaining schedule: (@COL on 4/11 at 8 p.m. CT)
Preds record vs. Hawks: 1-1-2
Minnesota Wild: (81 gp: 46-27-8, 100 pts)*
Leading scorer: Zach Parise (61 pts)
Remaining schedule: (@STL on 4/11 at 2 p.m. CT)
Preds record vs. Wild: 2-2-1