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A Deep Dive into Remaining NHL Schedule for Western Conference Playoff Contenders

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
27 days ago
The NHL has played 59% of the regular season (775 of 1,312 games) with five more games today and tomorrow (59.4%) before some of the NHL’s best players arrive in Toronto for the 2024 Skills Competition and the Very-Good game. Currently 23 teams are having their bye week, while the other nine will start theirs next week. Oddly enough, the four teams battling for the two wildcard spots in the West (Nashville, Los Angeles, Seattle and St. Louis) are still playing and will resume play on February 10th. The top-six teams in the west will begin their push to the playoffs next Monday or Tuesday.
The schedule maker couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
The race for home ice advantage in the Central and the Pacific will be intense. Vancouver is in the best position today and has the most breathing room, but with Vegas getting healthy and the Oilers winning 24 of their last 27 games, the race should still be close.
Winnipeg is in third spot in the Central, but they have two games in hand. Edmonton is five points back of Vegas with five games in hand and they face each other on February 6th when teams resume their stretch runs. The top three in each division have created some space between them and the wildcard teams, and unless one of them really falters it looks like we will have three separate playoff races: one for the top two spots in the Central, one for first and second in the Pacific and then the race for the two Wildcard spots. Finishing first in the division should give the winner a much easier first round opponent.

REMAINING SCHEDULE…

Who you play, and when you play them is a factor when discussing the push to the playoffs. I’ve broken down February, March and April respectively for the top-10 teams in the West, as well as the who, where and when they play.
*Green box equals a top-1o ranked opponent in the standings.
**Yellow box equals a bottom-10 ranked opponent.
***Red is road game.
***Black equals a home game.

January and February…

Dallas has the toughest schedule in February. They play 13 games, in 13 different cities. They never play two games in a row at home. They play three on the road, one at home, one on the road, then one at home, four road games then finish with one game at home, one on the road and back at home. That is a tough travel month. Seven of their game are against top-10 teams and they play nine road games.
Eight of Vancouver’s first 10 games this month are on the road.
Edmonton starts with essentially a seven-game road trip. Three on the road, one in Edmonton, then three more on the road.
Winnipeg only has two games v. top-10 teams, while Vegas, Colorado and Edmonton play three.
Nashville and Winnipeg play five bottom-10 teams, while Vegas, Edmonton and LA play four.
Dallas has three sets of back-to-backs while Vancouver, Edmonton, LA and STL have two.
Dallas and Vancouver play 13 games, Edmonton, Colorado and LA play 12, while Vegas and Seattle play the fewest with 10.

MARCH…

March is historically the busiest month of the season with teams playing between 13-16 games.
Winnipeg has the toughest schedule. They play 16 games, most of any team, have nine on the road and five games against top-10 teams.
After a tough February, Dallas only plays two teams in the top-10 in March, and they play the second fewest total games with 13.
Vancouver only plays 12, and they finish the month on a nine-game homestand with four of those nine v. bottom-10 teams.
Edmonton is tied with St. Louis for second most games with 15. Edmonton starts the month with six games in six different cities. One at home to Pittsburgh in between five road games. The Oilers play the second most games, six, v. bottom-10 teams.
Vegas has two games v. top-10 teams, and five v. bottom-10 clubs. Colorado has three games v. top-10 teams and five v. the worst teams and they play the second fewest games overall with 13.
Seattle has 10 home games and four on the road, but they play six games v. top-10 teams. How will this impact GM Ron Francis’ plan at the deadline?
St. Louis plays seven game v. bottom-10 teams. Will GM Doug Armstrong look at the schedule when determining his trade deadline moves?
Winnipeg and Edmonton have three sets of back-to-backs, LA and STL have two while the rest have one, except Vancouver who has none.

APRIL…

Usually April has the fewest games, but these final games will likely determine home ice advantage and which teams make the playoffs. The pressure and excitement are heightened.
Edmonton has the toughest April schedule with 10 games in 18 days, three sets of back-to-backs and five games v. top-10 teams.
Colorado also faces five top-10 teams, while LA, Nashville and Seattle face the fewest with two.
The Kings have six games v. bottom-10 teams, including their final five games. They have the easiest schedule.
Seattle plays seven of their nine games in April on the road.
Dallas only plays seven games in April and only two in the final seven days of the season. They will have the most rest, while the Oilers play five games in the final week of the season. Will head coach Kris Knoblauch reduce minutes of his top guys, even if it means potentially losing home ice advantage in the opening round?

OVERVIEW…

Here is a look at the remaining games, home-away and how many v. top-10 teams and bottom-10 teams.
TEAMGPH-ATop-10Bot 10BTB
EDM3718-1911128
WPG3516-1910114
LA3518-1711155
STL3416-1610135
SEA3317-161394
VAN3317-161383
DAL3315-181295
COL3316-1711104
NSH3216-169124
VGK3216-168122
LA has 15 (42.8%) of its remaining 35 games v. bottom-10 teams. Their problem is that over the last 27 games they have the 27th-best record in the NHL. They’ve struggled mightily for the past few months. Can they turn it around? Vegas plays the fewest total games, has the least v. top-1o teams, plays 37.5% of their games v. bottom-10 teams and only have two sets of back-to-backs.
Vancouver and Seattle play 13 (39.3%) of their remaining games v. top-10 teams, and Vancouver plays the fewest games (8) v. bottom feeders.
Edmonton plays the most games (37), but has eight sets of back-to-backs, including four in their final 15 games.
Winnipeg plays two more games than Dallas and Colorado but has fewer games v. top-10 teams and more games v. bottom-10 teams. The race in the Central should be amazing, if Dallas can get through its brutal February sched.
Edmonton needs to make up more ground on Vegas in February, because they have a tougher March and April. Vancouver returns to action with a five-game road trip, but then 17 of its final 28 games are on home ice including a nine-game homestand in March. Even though they play more games v. top-10 teams, if they keep rolling out of the break, they should be hard to catch. The main question surrounding the Canucks is can they maintain their high shooting% at 5×5?
The Canucks lead the NHL with an 11.82Sh% at 5×5. They’ve scored the most goals with 123, but via Sportlogiq, they are 22nd in xGF, 25th in scoring chances and 25th in shots on goal. Even if their team Sh% goes down, which it likely will to some degree, they still are solid defensively allowing the fourth-fewest goals at 5×5 while ranking in ninth in xGA and fifth in scoring chances against.
The final 40% of the season should be very entertaining, especially in the West, where six of the current top-10 teams in the NHL reside.

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