Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 4/9/12

It was a fascinating final day to the regular season this Saturday, with plenty of storylines directly relating to playoff seeding going in to the Stanley Cup tournament.  All 30 teams played, some with having nothing more than pride to guide them, others wishing to play the spoiler in close division crown battles.  As we go in to what is sure to be another great postseason, let’s take a look at the highlights of the day…

Malkin, Stamkos, Elliott

Evgeni Malkin completed a bounce-back season from knee surgery last year by scoring his 50th goal on the year against the Flyers.  The big Russian won the Art Ross trophy as the leading point scorer in the league and appears to be a lock to take home the Hart Memorial as NHL MVP.  Quite a comeback for the best player in the NHL this season.  Steven Stamkos wrapped up another high-powered year on offense by netting his 60th against the Jets.  This feat put him in elite company in the past 20 years, as only Alex Ovechkin has scored 60 in the past 10 years (65 in ’07-08); Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Alex Mogilny all put in 60 or more in the ‘90s.  Meanwhile, the goaltending duo of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott in St. Louis quietly had an eye-popping season in net, earning the William Jennings trophy for least goals allowed.  Elliott had a 1.56 goals-against average and .940 save percentage, both tops in the league.  Halak contributed 6 of the teams NHL-leading 15 shutouts; both goalies are poised for a deep run in the Western playoffs.

2 Divisions Locked Up on Last Day

The Phoenix Coyotes, still experiencing ownership turmoil in the desert, won their last 5 decisions of the season to win a weak Pacific division with 97 points.  The season-ending a game against Minnesota was a nail-biter at first for me (yes, I am one of approximately 3 Coyotes fans in the southeast), but my boys pulled out a 4-1 win thanks to 2 goals from grinder Taylor Pyatt and Radim Vrbata’s 35th of the year.  Mike Smith was spectacular down the stretch for the Coyotes, winning 11 straight games in February and only allowing 2 goals in the final 5 games (including 3 shutouts).  It was Phoenix’s first ever division title.  In the Southeast division, another small-market team, the Florida Panthers, beat Carolina to get their first division crown.  Veteran Panther Steven Weiss helped lead the way with his 20th goal of the year, and the Panthers edged Washington by getting 94 points.  Although they lost in overtime or shootout a league-leading 18 times, the Panthers could be dangerous in the first round.

Senator Slippage, Clutch in California

The Ottawa Senators lost their 3rd game in a row to complete what was still a successful season after a dismal 2010-11 campaign. However, it dropped them to the eighth seed in the East, meaning they will play New York instead of Boston.  Washington won to complete the year on a hot streak, earning the 7th seed.  In the final game of the year, San Jose took on the Kings in LA at the 10:30 ET time slot, ending late with a close overtime game.  Dan Boyle knocked home his 2nd goal of the game on the backhand, giving the Sharks a crucial extra point over the Kings and the 7th seed in the West.  The loss handed LA the 8th seed and a date with mighty Vancouver in the first round.

-Strauss

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