Western Conference Playoff Race: Who’s Going to Make It?

The battle out west couldn’t be closer as the final stretch of the regular season is upon the league. With just over 10 games give or take left in the regular season, anything can still happen. However, the eastern conference is significantly more set in stone than what the west is dealing with.

Out east there’s a three-point gap between the second wild-card holding New Jersey Devils and the team right behind them the Florida Panthers. Additionally just below Florida is Carolina who sit with a seven-point difference to overcome between them and New Jersey. Florida still has a very reasonable chance of overthrowing one team for a wild-card spot, but for Carolina and all teams below them, it’s nearing the point where the playoffs are becoming out of reach.

Wild, Wild West

In the west, the Colorado Avalanche hold the first wild-card spot while tied for points with the second wild-card holding Dallas Stars at 82-points. Although Just behind them are three teams hot on their heals. Anaheim and Calgary are just two points behind at 80-points each, and St.Louis is only one point behind both of those teams at 79-points. Currently, the gap between the top wild-card spot and being three places out of the playoffs is a difference of three points.

vegas golden knights
Vegas celebrating a goal in Detriot

The teams that can breathe the easiest out west are Nashville, Winnipeg, and Vegas. most other teams are sitting in a position where it’s still possible that the rug can be pulled out from under them. Minnesota with 85-points isn’t in a terrible spot, however Colorado and Dallas are close behind and looking to upgrade from wild-card status. There is still room for a slide out of playoff contention if the Wild make any major slip-ups coming down the home stretch.

Coming On Up

Anaheim, St.Louis and Calgary, right now are all on the outside looking in, however they aren’t on the outside by much. Anaheim and Calgary basically have their foot in the door waiting for Colorado or Dallas to make the slightest mistake. as they both sit just one win out from tieing their points.

St.Louis who sits three spots out of the playoffs started their year off strong, however they began to slide quite a bit after the winter break. Jake Allen was the team’s starter in the bringing of the year, but that role has seeming fell on the shoulders of Carter Hutton in recent months. However, as Hutton is day-to-day the responsibility now falls back to Allen, which is definitely not ideal for the Blues as every win is critical at this stage. St.Louis has seemingly gained the injured goal problem from Calgary, who up until this week had their starter in Mike Smith out on IR. Smith is now back in action and this could potentially give Calgary the advantage they need to secure some wins and make an effective final push.

Dallas is sitting in virtually the same position as Colorado, with equal points as the Avalanche and having a wild-card spot to their name. However, as has been stressed a lot in this article already, Dallas and the teams above them, are not there by much. Additionally, the Stars record has been very middle of the round with 4-4-2 in their last ten. It’s possible Dallas could fall out of a playoff spot, although if they do secure one, they definitely have good pieces to make a significant run. Out of the two current wild-card teams in Dallas and Colorado, the Stars by many accounts would be more likely to make good use of their playoff chances.

Who’s Not Making It?

Colorado has been showing Golden Knights levels of unexpected accomplishments, as they are 5-1-4 in there last 10 and have more goals for, than Dallas, Anaheim, St.Louis, or Calgary. Colorado has definitely been a surprise in the last half of the season. However, if the NHL playoffs started now, Colorado would be playing against Nashville, the team first place in their division. A team that for compassion is 9-0-1 in their last 10 and dwarfs Colorado in goals for, and in their goal differential which is +49 to Colorado’s +13.

Those stats are obviously expected as the last wild-card spot goes up against the best team. However if Anaheim was to knock out Colorado, that would seem like a closer matchup in round one, than Colorado vs Nashville. The point being that even if Colorado can hold onto their wild-card spot for dear life, they face a monstrous challenge in round one. Colorado has lost all 5 of their matchups with Nashville this year.

Of the six teams sitting pretty right now at the top of their division, the team that is most likely to fall is the LA Kings. It doesn’t take a genius to make that prediction as they have the least points out of the six teams, but beyond that, they have seemingly struggled quite a lot this year. LA is typically a playoff regular, despite missing their chance last season, and even though they aren’t out of the race yet, there seems to be a good chance that one of the ankle biting teams may nudge them out.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche facing off against the Coyotes

of the four teams at the very bottom, Anaheim still has a great chance to make a wild-card spot. Even though they’ve been on a three-game losing streak, they have a strong and finally healthy team, unlike what they started with this season. If not Anaheim though then Calgary should be able to not only make the playoffs, but make an impact in. Despite some trying periods, Calgary has been performing very well this season, and are starting to look like a team that may find themselves in the postseason on a yearly basis. Colorado and Dallas could keep up their work and hold onto their spots, but there is no telling how strong all these teams will be as we near the final weeks.


Sources:
https://www.nhl.com/standings/2017/wildcard
https://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/COL/head2head.html
http://www.espn.com/nhl/playoffs/matchups

 

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