The Dallas Stars wrapped a playoff spot with a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues Friday, a feat that has to be exciting for the Stars and their fans (and terrifying for the Blues and theirs -- what is up with that team?). But it's a little disappointing for hockey fans outside of Texas, who were sort of hoping the NHL would reach the weekend with at least one playoff spot still on the line.
Still, while some of the suspense is gone, what with all 16 playoff teams decided, there are still plenty of reasons to stay in this weekend and watch hockey (beyond the fact that hockey is awesome). Here are ten.
The Man, The Smyth, The Legend
The Oilers have been playing meaningless games for awhile now, but their season finale is a special one: it's the eleventh hour (actually the 1,270th hour, if we're being pedantic) for Ryan Smyth, who announced his retirement on Friday. It's sure to be a special one. Add in the fact that they're playing an embarrassed Canucks team they've battled with all season and you've got a game that might be imbued with a little extra spirit.
The Anaheim Ducks have two more games before the playoffs, which means the Teemu Selanne era is drawing to a close. This is lame. In our opinion, Teemu Selanne should always be in the league. Nothing in this life makes me rue the passage of time quite like the fact that we're watching his last days. His final regular-season game versus the Colorado Avalanche is sure to be an emotional one.
The Best in the West
Yet that's hardly the only reason to watch that game. At the time of this writing, the Ducks and Avalanche are leading their respective divisions, and just a point apart in the race for first place in the Western Conference. One of the last games of the season could be for the Conference title.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are out of the playoffs. Is Randy Carlyle out as their coach? That remains to be seen, but if the Leafs finish weakly, that ought to seal Carlyle's fate. Even with a win over the Senators, Carlyle could be unemployed in a week, but there's no way he survives the optics of an ugly loss.
The dawn of a new era in Nashville?
Same goes for Barry Trotz, who must be thinking his days are numbered in the Music City. David Poile may have already made up his mind (provided Poile isn't in danger of losing his own job), but, again, sometimes the way a team finishes can impact these decisions. Nashville closes things out Sunday against Minnesota, and it will be worth watching to see if the Predators look like a team that still wants to play for the only coach they've ever played for.
For who else does the bell toll?
What about John Tortorella in Vancouver, or Peter DeBoer in New Jersey? Jack Capuano in Long Island? Adam Oates in Washington? There could be a slough of firings next week, and an embarrassing season finale is just the sort of thing that guarantees lost jobs. This may be your last chance to see all these guys behind their respective benches.
Speaking of the Devils, will Sunday's tilt with the Boston Bruins be the last we see of Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur? Neither has said whether or not he's returning next year, but it's possible that they're both gone when the 2014-15 season starts up. Jagr's Devils MVP. He certainly looks like he has another year in him. But what about Brodeur? He's made no secret of how little fun he's had this year. Will he want a do-over?
Montreal vs. Tampa Bay
This matchup has been settled. Where it begins has not. Just one point separates the Lightning and the Canadiens in the standings, which makes their final games extremely important.
Someone has to play the Bruins
And finally, the playoff teams may be settled, but in several cases, their opponents are not. In the East, you have to think nobody wants to play the Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins. Currently, Columbus, Detroit, and Philadelphia are all in danger of finishing in that second Wild Card spot and having to make the long flight to Boston. Do not want.
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