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Make-or-Break Week Ahead for the Red Wings: How Detroit Can Make the Playoffs

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We're down to the very last week of the NHL season and are in a position to be scoreboard watching all week once again, hoping that by the time things are all said and done that the Wings' playoff streak will have been once again extended much later than we would have liked to have seen. If the season were over today, the Wings would be in. Unfortunately, Detroit has three more games to prove they belong.

For the easy math, if Detroit wins out all of their games, they get in no matter what. 97 points guarantees a playoff spot over Boston, who maxes out at 96. However, the head-to-head matchup on Thursday guarantees that both of these teams cannot max out.

We're not the only team clawing though. The East has only three teams who have clinched one of the eight spots available: Washington, Pittsburgh, and Florida are all locked in no matter what. Tampa Bay and the Rangers each have four games remaining with only two points left to guarantee spots. The Islanders are four points shy of the 97 point mark with five games left to play. Realistically, we have two spots remaining for three teams: Boston, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

Currently, according to SportsClubStats, the Wings have the lowest chance of making it of those three.

Philadelphia (78.7%) - Four Games Remaining

Opponents: @Detroit, Toronto (B2B), Pittsburgh, @NY Islanders (B2B)

Six out of eight points for the Flyers in this stretch gets them in. Pittsburgh owns the Flyers, but there's a good chance the Pens will have the first round home ice matchup guaranteed by Saturday, so you can't count on the Penguins to beat the Flyers. Toronto is... well.. Toronto, and the Isles have been sputtering hard. Even if Detroit beats Philly, there's a real good chance they're going to make it in without any help.

Boston (62.2%) - Three Games Remaining

Opponents: Carolina, Detroit, Ottawa

Boston's remaining schedule is why they have a higher chance of getting in despite being a point behind Detroit right now with identical games played. All three games are at home, none are back-to-back, and two of the three are against already-eliminated teams. If Boston wins out, they'll get in on the strength of denying the Wings two points (as scenarios where that game goes to OT and the Wings win a tiebreaker are rare).

Detroit (60.4%) - Three Games remaining

Opponents: Philadelphia, @Boston (B2B), @NY Rangers

Two of three on the road and two of three against teams they're battling head-to-head. The Philly matchup is going to be huge, as will the Boston game the next night (and we all know how bad Detroit has been on the second half of back-to-backs). If things go right for the Wings, they can make the Saturday game irrelevant. doing so involves earning two more points than the Bruins by the end of Thursday. Of course, it's also possible that Saturday's Rangers game is irrelevant for the bad reason too.

Dark Horse: NY Islanders (98.8%) - Four Games Remaining

The Isles need just four points in five games to guarantee a spot. This number drops if Detroit loses a point too. However, their five games happen in seven days and feature Tampa, Washington, the Rangers, and the Flyers. The only game of their five that should be remotely considered an easy win is against Buffalo on Saturday. It would take an immense collapse by the islanders, but it's possible.

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So all Detroit has to do is to win games against Philadelphia (against whom they're 0-1-1), Boston (1-1-1) and the Rangers (1-0-1) to guarantee a spot. With one set being back-to-back, we should probably hope that both of our goalies are capable of winning absolutely huge games against the kind of big, physical teams that tend to give the Red Wings trouble.

It's going to be one hell of a test this week. The Wings haven't failed to make it yet, but they're going to have to find a consistency we haven't seen all season. This is already the Red Wings' playoffs.