With two games left in the regular season the Minnesota Wild are a lock to finish second or third in the West Division, though winning out could be the key to claiming home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Which team the Wild face in the opening round could be decided Monday night when the Vegas Golden Knights host the Colorado Avalanche.
If Vegas wins, they'll secure the top spot in the West Division and lock in a first-round playoff series at home against the St. Louis Blues. A Vegas win would also lock in a first-round playoff series between the Wild and Avalanche.
But if Colorado beats Vegas, the West Division will still be up for grabs – Colorado would be 2 points behind Vegas with two games to go – and that actually might be the best-case scenario for the Wild.
Minnesota went 2-2 at home against the Avs but lost three of four at Ball Arena in Colorado during the regular season, including a handful of games where the Avs absolutely thumped them.
Against Vegas, the Wild are 2-2 in Sin City and 3-1 in St. Paul. Vegas has clearly been a better matchup for Minnesota, even though they too are among the favorites with Colorado to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.
If the Wild hope to get home ice – Minnesota is 21-5-2 at Xcel Energy Center – they should be rooting for Vegas to clinch the division with a regulation victory Monday night. It would keep Colorado stuck on 76 points with two games to go, while the Wild have 75 points with a pair of games at St. Louis Wednesday and Thursday to finish the season.
Minnesota could have a big leg up on the Blues since St. Louis is locked into the No. 4 seed, meaning the team could choose to rest key players ahead of the playoffs.
- If Vegas wins Monday night, the Wild are guaranteed to meet Colorado in the playoffs, and Minnesota would still have a shot at passing the Avs to secure home ice.
- If Colorado wins Monday night, Minnesota would be on the brink of losing any shot at home ice in the first round, and they still wouldn't know if they'd be facing Vegas or Colorado to open the playoffs.