The playoff race in the western conference is getting closer by the day. Ten points separate 5th place Winnipeg and 11th place Dallas. It is interesting to note that according to SportsClubStats the Jets have a 67.3% chance of making the playoffs, while Vancouver and Calgary have an 89.3% and 80% respectively due to having games in hand.
It would be great to cover a team in the midst of a playoff race, not a draft lottery race again, and even though the Oilers aren’t one of the six teams battling for four playoff spots (sorry Dallas, Seguin injury eliminates you), this year’s race illustrates how far the Oilers need to go just to be in the playoff conversation.
The Oilers will need to improve significantly by this time next season if they want to be in the mix. The Oilers are 9-10-3 under Todd Nelson, but 21 points in 22 games is not even on par with 11th place Dallas, who have 60 points in 56 games. So before you get too excited over the Oilers recent stretch of competitive hockey, keep in mind they still aren’t playing well enough to get you close to playoff excitement.
We would all like to be involved in the rollercoaster of emotions known as a playoff race. Look at the Wild for instance. Prior to last night’s 3-2 loss in Vancouver they had a 50.9% chance of making the playoffs, but their loss to the Canucks combined with the Jets and Flames victories dropped them down to only a 38.4% chance.
The stats are simply a number, and only represent a team’s odds of making the playoffs, but it does add extra excitement and nerves to the playoff race.
Here are the remaining games for each team in the race and how I see it playing out.
Winnipeg: 5th place, 23 games remaining and two sets of BTB games.
12 home games, 11 on the road.
15 games against the west: Predators, Blues (4), Hawks, Canucks (2), Flames, Sharks, Kings, Wild and non-playoff teams, Stars, Avalanche and Oilers. (Bold vs. teams battling for playoff spot).
8 games against the east: Canadiens. Lightning, Rangers, Capitals (2) and non playoff teams Panthers, Senators and Leafs.
Vancouver: 6th place, 26 games left and three sets of BTB games.
13 home games, 13 on the road.
18 games vs. the west: Predators, Blues (2), Ducks, Blackhawks, Jets (2), Sharks (2), Kings (3), Stars, Avalanche, Coyotes (3) and Oilers.
8 games vs. the east: Islanders, Rangers, Bruins and non-playoff Flyers, Blue Jackets, Devils, Leafs and Sabres.
Calgary: 7th place, 25 games left and four sets of BTB games.
11 home games, 14 on the road.
15 games vs. the west: Predators, Blues (2), Ducks (2), Jets, Kings, Wild (2) and non-playoff Stars (2), Avalanche (2), Coyotes and Oilers.
10 games vs. the east: Islanders, Red Wings, Rangers, Bruins and non-playoff Flyers (2), Senators, Blue Jackets, Devils and Leafs.
San Jose: 8th place, 24 games left and three sets of BTB games.
11 home games, 13 on the road.
14 games vs. the west: Predators (2), Blackhawks, Jets, Canucks (2), Kings (2) and non playoff Stars (2), Avalanche, Coyotes (2) and Oilers.
10 games vs. the east: Canadiens (2), Penguins (2), Red Wings (2), and non-playoff Flyers, Senators (2) and Leafs
Los Angeles: 9th place, 26 games left and three sets of BTB games.
10 home games, 16 on the road.
19 games vs. the west: Predators, Ducks (2), Blackhawks, Jets, Canucks (3), Flames, Sharks (2), Wild, Stars, Avalanche (3), Coyotes and Oilers (3).
7 games vs. the east: Canadiens, Islanders, Rangers, Penguins, Red Wings, and non playoff Senators and Devils.
Minnesota: 10th place, 26 games left and five sets of BTB games.
13 home games, 13 on the road.
17 games vs. the west: Predators (3), Blues (3), Ducks, Blackhawks, Jets, Flames (2), Kings and non-playoff Stars, Avalanche (2) and Oilers (2).
9 games vs. the east: Islanders, Rangers, Red Wings, Capitals (2), and non-playoff Senators, Devils, Leafs and Hurricanes.
- The Canucks have been decimated by injuries. They have four D-men out: Bieksa is out another 3-4 weeks. Edler and Tanev weren’t on charter today, while Corrado might return on Sunday. Nick Bonino is out at least a few more weeks up front as well. They have six games, five during their eastern road swing, before the trade deadline and they will be looking for some scoring depth.
- The Flames continue to perform miracle comebacks, and they will need more if they hope to make the playoffs. The main question I have is what will they do with Curtis Glencross? Do they keep him for the playoff run, or do they trade him and get something instead of losing him as UFA in summer, because they have won without him?
- Jets play the fewest games, but they also have the toughest schedule. If their goaltending can hold up I see them making the playoffs. With recent injuries to Stafford and Perreault, I also expect them to add another forward before the deadline. The Jets need to make the playoffs this year.
- The Kings only have seven wins in 25 road games and 16 of their final 26 games are on the road. The defending champs seem to relish making life more difficult than it should be, but I have more faith in the Kings than I do the Flames or Canucks.
- The Sharks are the toughest team to read. One night they look great and the next they look disinterested. I see the Sharks finishing in the second wild card spot and will cross over and play Nashville.
- The Wild might have waited too long to get a goalie, but Dubnyk’s four shutouts and ten wins in 14 games has the Wild right back in the race. Can Dubnyk maintain a .935sv%? Unlikely, but he had a .920 with the Oilers so it is very possible he finishes with a .925sv% in Minnesota. If he does that, I think the Wild could squeak in.
- I see the Flames and Sharks not making it. Who do you like?