Minnesota has a problem.
Faced with complete control of their destiny and a home game against the Edmonton Oilers -- far from world beaters -- and put up almost nothing in a 6-1 loss to a team that will likely finish 10 points worse than they did this season. They face a trip out to the altitude of Denver, Colorado and a road game against an even worse team on Saturday night. Once again, a win will clinch a playoff spot. The Wild couldn't possibly blow it again, could they?
If they do, the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will be quite fine to assume their seed in the post-season. There are three different scenarios that could play out in terms of who gets in and who gets out after Saturday. Let's look at them:
1. Detroit in, Minnesota in, Columbus Out: Essentially status quo happens with all three clubs either winning or losing. Columbus holds no tiebreakers over either team, so they need to win and get help.
2. Detroit In, Columbus In, Minnesota Out: The Red Wings get at least a point and they're in, and the Blue Jackets get at least a point while the Wild lose in Colorado.
3. Minnesota In, Columbus In, Detroit Out: Detroit loses in 60 minutes on the road against the Dallas Stars, and the Wild manage at least a point against the Avs, while the Blue Jackets beat the Predators.
Here are the current NHL playoff positions heading into Saturday.
Current Playoff Matchups:
8. New York Rangers, 54 points (47 games played) vs. 1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 70 points (47 GP)
7. Ottawa Senators, 54 points (46 GP) vs. 2. Boston Bruins, 61 points (46 GP)
6. New York Islanders, 55 points (48 GP) vs. 3. Washington Capitals, 55 points (47 GP)
5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 57 points (47 GP) vs. 4. Montreal Canadiens, 61 points (47 GP)
Clinched a Playoff Spot:
1. Chicago Blackhaws, 77 points (47 GP)
2. Anaheim Ducks, 66 points (47 GP)
3. Vancouver Canucks, 59 points (47 GP)
4. St. Louis Blues, 58 points (47 GP)
5. Los Angeles Kings, 57 points (47 GP)
6. San Jose Sharks, 57 points (47 GP)
Currently in Playoff Position:
7. Detroit Red Wings, 54 points (47 GP, 21 ROW)
8. Minnesota Wild, 53 points (47 GP, 21 ROW)
On the Bubble:
9. Columbus Blue Jackets, 53 points (47 GP, 18 ROW)
Since I've already detailed the meaning behind what happens in Detroit-Dallas, Nashville-Columbus and Minnesota-Colorado, let's look at how the rest of Saturday's games affects playoff positioning.
New Jersey vs. NY Rangers, 3 p.m. ET
The Rangers are in, but they really could use a win if they don't fancy themselves a date with a likely completely reloaded Pittsburgh Penguins team. Though, when you think about it, a seventh seed might not be much better, since that could come with it a date against the Canadiens. The Rangers haven't beaten Carey Price at the Bell Centre since 2009. I mean, not in terms of winning, I mean actually scoring a goal on him. Price has been a madman in the net against the Blueshirts. A 60-minute loss guarantees them the eighth seed, a point or better guarantees them at least seventh, and at least a point -- combined with a pointless two-game weekend for the Senators -- gets them sixth.
Montreal vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. ET
The Maple Leafs have beaten the Canadiens three out of four times this season by an aggregate of 15-7. Carey Price and the Habs have had a mighty struggle to finish things up. If Toronto beats Montreal on Saturday, it would set up a 4-5 matchup between the Leafs and the Habs, which would cause an amazing hysteria across Canada. A loss, and the Leafs could still very well find themselves against Montreal in round one, but they'd have to wait out Boston's end of the season to do it.
Philadelphia vs. Ottawa, 7 p.m. ET
The Senators win and they guarantee themselves no worse than seventh seed. A 65-minute-or-less win, combined with a Rangers loss, would guarantee them sixth place no matter what happens on Saturday. That scenario would leave both clubs with 21 regulation/overtime wins, sending things to the second tiebreaker, which is points earned in games contested between the clubs. The Senators have six and the Rangers have two in three games between the teams this season. Of course, they still have a game to play, so they may still have a shot at overtaking sixth on Sunday night.
Boston vs. Washington, 7 p.m. ET
The Bruins will likely not hold any tiebreakers over the Canadiens if they don't get four points in their last two games, which means they will have to get more points than the Habs regardless of how they do it this weekend to clinch the Northeast Division and the second seed. They may see little resistance from Washington, who have their seeding locked down.
Chicago vs. St. Louis, 8 p.m. ET
Pretty simple for the Blues: a point will guarantee them fifth place, but two will guarantee them fourth. They don't own the key tiebreakers with the Kings if they lose, but they do have a huge lead in ROW over the Sharks should they be tied. Getting a win guarantees home ice advantage, which was overrated last year, but is always something teams prefer to have.
San Jose vs. Los Angeles, 10:30 p.m. ET
Speaking of San Jose and Los Angeles, even if the Blues win there will still be the matter of who has to play them, so this game means a little bit no matter what happens in Missouri earlier in the evening. San Jose needs to have more points than St. Louis or Los Angeles to get a better seed, as they cannot win any tiebreakers whatsoever. The Kings hold the ROW tiebreaker over both the Blues and Sharks.