Everyday the Western Conference standings look different. We all have busy lives, important things to be doing, and its tough to keep up. One day your team is sitting pretty in fourth, the next you’re out of the playoffs. So with 10 games left, give or take, we need to breakdown this logjam and give you a clear picture of what these teams are up against and if they have a realistic shot of staying in the top eight.
I am safely assuming that Detroit and San Jose, baring a major collapse of biblical proportions, will make the playoffs and own seeds two and three. Vancouver, with 103 points, has already clinched their division title and should hold onto the top spot. Six points separate the currently 4th-seeded Phoenix Coyotes and the 10th-seeded Anaheim Ducks.
So lets not worry whether your team has played 70 or 73 games and 2 points separate; because when push comes to shove everybody plays 82.
The Desert Dogs from Glendale have dealt with so much off-ice ownership drama lately, I am glad they are still managing to win games. Currently on a four-game winning streak after a solid 3-1 win in Edmonton last night, they play tonight in Vancouver. But in my opinion the tough stretch is over. Seven of their remaining games are at home. While they have fared better on the road this season, I have to believe the lack of travel will help them finish the season strong, and get in the playoffs.
Reminder: 6 of 10 remaining games against playoff teams, 3 against the Sharks
Los Angeles Kings-
This team just came off a very strong road trip winning all four games convincingly. The two Jonathans, Quick and Bernier, have been alternating in net and up until last night its been working. Their next four games are at home, followed by some tough road matchups in Vancouver and San Jose. Their schedule gives me some concerns. This team won’t be able to take a day off. Aside from Chicago, the Kings in my mind have been the most impressive team this past month and it will serve them well in the playoffs. Battle: LA isn’t just a movie, three games remain against the Ducks.
Reminder: 7 of 11 remaining games at home
While I am sure the 5-0 whipping they gave the Blackhawks last night gives Dallas fans hope, they have a treacherous schedule to look forward to. By far the least favorable schedule to finish the season, the Stars have seven road games before they finish the season, and their weak special teams play will have to be better if they want to make the playoffs. Jamie Benn, currently on a nine-game point streak, will have to keep showing up, too.
Reminder: 7 of 11 remaining games on the road
The Blackhawks have the tough task of facing Tampa Bay, Boston, Montreal, and play three games against Detroit before the season ends. They are also dealing with the injury bug. The Hawks will not having the luxury of mailing in games like last night against Dallas, and won’t be able to push their Western Conference competition out by stacking up wins against them. They play more Eastern Conference teams than anyone else in the West. They will need to maintain their stellar goal-scoring (3.20 gpg), and second-best power play if they want any chance of remaining in the top eight.
Reminder: 5 home games, 6 on the road, 3 against Detroit
The Flames might have the toughest chance of hanging on to a playoff spot. They have the fewest games left to play at nine games. When looking at their wins over the past month, they haven’t been beating teams currently in the top eight. Their shootout win against Dallas last week was the first time they beat a top eight Western Conference team since the last time they beat Dallas, back on Feb. 16. If I were the Flames, that would worry me a bit, and I don’t think this team will make the playoffs. Calgary is only 15-15-5 on the road this season, and with 6 of 8 on the road, playing .500 hockey won’t get the Flames in.
Reminder: 6 of 8 remaining games on the road
Here’s the bottom line for Nashville: Pekka Rinne. Feb. 3 was the last time this guy took a game off. On a promising note, only three road games remain for Nashville. I think this team makes the playoffs and squeezes out Anaheim and Calgary for the final spot, but not necessarily the eight, which I have a sneaky suspicion the Chicago Blackhawks will hold onto. Nashville will finish sixth in the West, ahead of both Chicago and Dallas, thanks to their friendly home schedule and great home record (18-8-7). As long as Rinne doesn’t burn out, neither will the Predators.
Reminder: 8 of 11 remaining games at home
Sorry guys, somebody has to be left out. While the Ducks are only two points out of a playoff spot, they will not find a chair when the music stops. Aside from one road game against Nashville on Mar. 24, every team they play is currently ahead of them in the standings and in the playoffs as of today. What a story it will be, though, if Ray Emery carries Anaheim into the playoffs. While his first win was impressive, you only wish the rest of his games were against St. Louis. The two games against Calgary and three against L.A. are all must-wins if the Ducks wish to make the playoffs.
Reminder: 7 of 12 remaining games on the road
What an exciting time to be a hockey fan! You will see these seven teams face each other almost exclusively until the end of the season. From a scheduling perspective, the NHL could not have done a better job. Every game is must-watch TV and has immediate implications that may make or break your team's season in an instant.
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images