The 2013 regular-season is all but over, with just one game left to play, and while that game has some major implications on the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, the West's four matchups were set Saturday night.
Despite the valiant efforts of the Columbus Blue Jackets, they were left on the outside looking in as both the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild won their final games. With that, Detroit and Minnesota finished 7th and 8th, respectively. This means that the Wings will be opening the season in Anaheim, and the Wild have earned the pleasure of a trip to Chicago.
Speaking of Chicago, by defeating the Blackhawks Saturday, the Blues managed to stave off both the Kings and the Sharks for the fourth playoff spot and the right to open the playoffs on the road.
That meant that their opponent was the winner of Saturday night's final game, a contest between the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks. The loser got Vancouver, and that turned out to be the Sharks, who closed out the season with a 3-2 loss.
That means that your playoff matchups in the West look like this:
Chicago (1) vs. Minnesota (8)
Anaheim (2) vs. Detroit (7)
Vancouver (3) vs. San Jose (6)
St. Louis (4) vs. Los Angeles (5)
We'll have our full series previews beginning next week, but a few quick observations:
• It's crazy to think that the West will be losing two of Vancouver, San Jose, St. Louis, and Los Angeles in the first round. That's unfortunate, because, apart from the obvious number one in Chicago, those are the conference's four best teams.
• That Vancouver/San Jose series is going to be a lot of fun. Think Ryan Kesler and Joe Thornton fight off the opening faceoff again?
• I'll pick Detroit to upset Anaheim right now. I'm not sold on the Ducks, I don't like the way they closed out the season, and while these aren't the Red Wings of old, I think they're good enough to surprise Anaheim.
• I think every other team in the Western Conference is breathing a sigh of relief that the Blues and the Kings will be beating up on one another. Those are two big, nasty clubs. And I'm sure the Blues are relishing the opportunity for a rematch with a Kings club that made quick work of them last year.
• Minnesota's in trouble.