Today is April 1, which means two things: Any minute now, the Toronto Maple Leafs will shout “April Fools’!” and we’ll all have a good laugh about the series of increasingly dumb things they’ve spent the year saying and doing; and the NHL regular season is heading down the homestretch.
That last part is probably more important to the rest of you, so let’s focus on that. We’ve got less than two weeks of action left before the season concludes on April 13. With all four wild-card spots up for grabs and every team other than the Bruins and Penguins still fighting for playoff seeding, there are plenty of important nights left on the NHL regular-season calendar.
Of course, they can’t all be winners. So to help you plan your next few weeks of viewing, here’s a day-by-day breakdown of the April schedule.
Tuesday, April 1: 11 games
The can’t-miss matchup: Dallas at Washington — An interconference battle between two teams that are just on the outside of the playoff picture and desperate for points. (Why, yes, this will end up being a three-point game, why do you ask?)
Other good options: Montreal at Tampa Bay is a first-round playoff preview that will help decide who gets home ice. Rangers at Canucks gives Alain Vigneault a chance to all but bury the playoff hopes of the team that fired him. The Flames visit Toronto in Brian Burke’s first trip back to Toronto since he was fired last January, and if he doesn’t spend the whole game pelting Dave Nonis with waffles then I’ll never forgive him.
No thanks: There’s really no reason to watch Panthers at Islanders, unless you’re a top-five prospect in this year’s draft. By the way, the Islanders are going to show up a few times in this section. Sorry about that, Islander fans.
Entertainment quotient: 8/10 — This is shaping up as a fun start to the month.
Wednesday, April 2: Four games
The can’t-miss matchup: Boston at Detroit — These two Original Six teams haven’t met in the playoffs since 1957, but could be headed for a first-round matchup this year.
Other good options: The Coyotes can solidify their playoff spot with an upset win in Los Angeles. Oilers at Ducks is a Viktor Fasth homecoming, which isn’t really interesting, but there are only four games tonight so I’m reaching.
No thanks: The Senators and Islanders are a completely forgettable pairing.
Entertainment quotient: 2/10 — Pass.
Thursday, April 3: Nine games
The can’t-miss matchup: Los Angeles at San Jose — The Sharks need to keep winning to have any shot at the division title. If they don’t, then this is a preview of what’s likely to be the first round’s most brutal matchup.
Other good options: The Sabres visit the Blues for the first time since the Ryan Miller trade. Both the Wild at Blackhawks and Jackets at Flyers should will be key games for the wild-card races. Rangers at Avs features two good teams. Boston at Toronto is just a jerk move by the schedule maker at this point.
No thanks: I guess it’s Flames at Lightning by default.
Entertainment quotient: 7/10 — There’s something for everyone.