Well, that final NHL weekend was a bit of a dud.
When the Stars shut out the Blues on Friday night to clinch a wild card, it meant that all 16 playoff spots had been wrapped up, with two days remaining. That left Sunday night’s Dallas-Phoenix matchup, which for weeks had seemed destined to serve as a play-in for the West’s final wild-card slot, as just another meaningless game on the weekend schedule.
We did get a handful of games that mattered in terms of the final matchups, most notably the Red Wings’ 3-0 win over St. Louis on Sunday. The loss capped off a disastrous finish to the regular season by the Blues, who dropped six straight in regulation to cough up the Central Division title to the surging Avalanche.
Colorado now gets to face the Minnesota Wild in Round 1, while the Blues get a much tougher matchup with the defending-champion Blackhawks. It’s been a stunning collapse for St. Louis, a team that had been considered a presumptive Stanley Cup favorite ever since it acquired Ryan Miller in a pre-deadline blockbuster. Now the Blues can’t score, half the roster is hurt, and Miller is getting Bronx cheers from St. Louis fans. If it’s possible for a 111-point team to go into the playoffs in disarray, the Blues are that team.
Other than the Central title, there wasn’t much left to play for, and most of the playoff teams took the opportunity to rest up. We did get to see the Ducks finally clinching top seed in the Pacific with a win over the Kings, as well as the Lightning earning home ice in their series against Montreal by beating the Capitals in a Sunday afternoon shootout. And that was about it.
But the lack of meaningful games had an upside, in that it freed us up to focus on a weekend packed with veterans stars making their exits.