Plenty at stake on NHL's final day
Hats off to the NHL schedule-makers, who through a combination of skill and luck have assembled a compelling final day of the regular season.
While not every game carries playoff implications, there's a story worth following in each of the eight contests. A look at what's on the line Sunday, in chronological order:
Boston 4 at Washington 3 (SO)
Both teams were already locked into their Eastern Conference playoff positions — Presidents' Trophy-winning Washington is the top seed, while Boston is No. 6 — but the game was important in the race for some big individual honours.
Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet, finishing the season with 50 goals and 109 points.
That meant the scoring title would almost certainly go to Vancouver Canuck Henrik Sedin, whose 112 points gave him an edge of three points over Ovechkin and eight over Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, who was to play his finale later.
Ovechkin remained tied with Tampa Bay's Steve Stamkos for the lead in the Maurice Richard Trophy race, with Crosby one goal back.
New York Rangers at Philadelphia (3 p.m. ET)
The biggest game of the day, and perhaps the whole season. New York and Philadelphia are tied for the final playoff spot in the East with 86 points apiece, so the setup couldn't be more simple: the winner is in the playoffs, the loser is done.
The Rangers have the momentum, going 7-1-1 in their last nine, while Philadelphia is in the midst of a 3-7-1 slide.
The teams split their first two meetings this season at the Wachovia Center, with the Rangers winning 2-1 on Dec. 19 and the Flyers prevailing 2-0 on Jan. 21.
The Montreal Canadiens have a stake in this game as well. Currently seventh in the Eastern Conference, the Habs need a Rangers victory to avoid dropping to eighth and meeting the powerhouse Capitals in the opening round.
Detroit at Chicago (3 p.m. ET)
Chicago needs a win to leapfrog San Jose for the top seed in the Western Conference.
Detroit, which was out of a playoff spot as late as March 9, is currently tied for fifth with Nashville at 100 points. The defending West champion Red Wings need at least a point against Chicago to claim that spot because Nashville has more wins. In fact, Detroit can fall as far as seventh depending on how Los Angeles fares in its game against Colorado.
Los Angeles at Colorado (3 p.m. ET)
The Kings, who head into the day seventh in the Western Conference, can finish as high as fifth as they hope to pass Detroit, which is visiting Chicago, and idle Nashville.
The Avalanche will finish eighth in the Western Conference, putting them in line for a first-round playoff matchup with either Chicago or San Jose.
Pittsburgh at New York Islanders (5 p.m. ET)
The Penguins are one of just two teams who already know their first-round matchup — the other being Ottawa, which will visit Pittsburgh to open the playoffs.
Crosby needs one goal to reach 50 for the first time in his career and stay in the hunt for the Richard Trophy.
Tampa Bay at Florida (5 p.m. ET)
Both teams are out of the playoffs, but all eyes will be on Stamkos to see if he can capture the NHL goal-scoring title in his second season. The 20-year-old centre potted his 49th and 50th goals to pull even with Ovechkin in Saturday's 4-3 home win over the Panthers.
Buffalo at New Jersey (5 p.m. ET)
The Sabres need a win in regulation time to take over the No. 2 seed in the East from the Devils. A loss or an overtime/shootout victory keeps Buffalo in third place, setting up a first-round series against sixth-seeded Boston.
Edmonton at Anaheim (8 p.m. ET)
This meeting of non-playoff teams could be the final NHL game for Ducks stars Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer. Both men are good bets to join the hall of fame, as Selanne is one of just three European-reared players to score 600 goals, and Niedermayer is a former Norris Trophy winner and a four-time Stanley Cup champion.
With files from The Associated Press