The Red Wings are very close to clinching their 25th consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A win in regulation or overtime against the New York Rangers on Saturday would clinch them a playoff berth.
“We put ourselves in a position (Wednesday) by winning a game to control our own destiny,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said after a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden Thursday night. “So let’s go win a hockey game on Saturday.”
The Red Wings need to win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (12:30 p.m. ET) in regulation or overtime to clinch a postseason spot without any help.
If Detroit wins in a shootout Saturday, it would need assistance from either the Boston Bruins or Philadelphia Flyers to qualify.
The Flyers control their own destiny with two games remaining (Saturday at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sunday at the New York Islanders). If Philadelphia wins both, it will secure the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.
If the Flyers win each of their remaining games and the Red Wings beat the Rangers in regulation or overtime, it won’t matter what Boston does Saturday against the Ottawa Senators; in that scenario, the Bruins would be out of the playoffs because of the non-shootout wins tiebreaker.
If the Red Wings and Bruins each finish with 95 points and 39 non-shootout wins, Boston owns the second tiebreaker against Detroit, having won the season series 3-1. Under that scenario, the Red Wings would need help to claim the second wild card. If Philadelphia wins out, it would finish with 96 points; Detroit can get no more than 95.
The situation is not new to the Red Wings. They had to win their final four games of the 2012-13 season to clinch a playoff berth. And, like this season, the Red Wings went into the penultimate game in control of their own playoff fate; they gave themselves a chance this season by defeating the Flyers 3-0 at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday.
Now, a few quick notes;
New York Rangers forwards Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg and defensemen Ryan McDonagh, and Dan Girardi will not play against the Detroit Red Wings in the final game of the regular season on Saturday.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault also said backup goaltender Antti Raanta will start.
Zuccarello, the Rangers’ leading point-scorer with 61 (26 goals, 35 assists), and Stalberg each played Thursday in a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders, but did not practice Friday. Each is out with a lower-body injury, but Vigneault says he expects each player back for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.