The Chicago Blackhawks had a golden opportunity to clinch the final playoff berth as they played their final regular season game against their archrivals Detroit Red Wings. All the Blackhawks had to do was gain a single point in the game — even an overtime would have been enough — and the eighth seed was theirs for the taking. Unfortunately, they lost handilyin regulation to the Red Wings by a 4-3 score, and their playoff destiny was out of their hands.
The Dallas Stars had a golden opportunity. After leading the Pacific Division for the first half of the season, the Stars watched every other team pass them up, and their playoff hopes dimmed. Yet a final push put them into great positioning. With the Chicago loss, Dallas merely had to win their final game against the Minnesota Wild. A win would pull them into a tie with Chicago, and they held every tiebreaker. Yet the Stars came up short, losing their final matchup against the Wild, 5-3, and their late season playoff charge came up short.
With the Stars loss, Blackhawks fans can breathe easily. They were in danger of becoming the first defending champion to miss the playoffs the following season. Instead, they will get to defend their title against the unanimous top team in the league, the Vancouver Canucks, when the playoffs start later this week.