As the NHL’s Western Conference careens to its April finish, it is not always easy to figure out how your team is faring, where it projects and what is coming up next. At The Hockey Writers, we’re here to help.
We’ve put together a quick and simple view of the teams locked in this close race. It’ll be updated on Thursday, to reflect the results of the Monday-Wednesday games, and it’ll be updated on Monday to cover the Thursday-Sunday games.
We previously conceded the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights are in the playoffs. We said the Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks aren’t going to make it, leaving eight teams fighting for the remaining five playoff spots.
This week we culled the list from eight to seven. Slim and none were the chances for the Calgary Flames and well, Slim just left Calgary. The Flames needed a winning streak to stay in the hunt, but their Monday loss to Arizona was enough for me to call it a season. We’ll see where Slim heads next. Dallas is the most likely destination, but perhaps not this week.
Our table indicates the points each team has and provides a projected season total, based on each team averaging one point per game in each remaining game.
Of the seven teams, six project to more points than they did in our last article (games through Mar. 18), Minnesota held even and only Dallas projects to fewer.
Notable Events, Mar. 19-21
The Kings 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota on Monday was a beauty of a game. The Kings trailed by a goal in the final minute and put an extra attacker on the ice. It worked, with Dustin Brown tipping a Drew Doughty point shot for the game tying goal. In overtime, Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk poked checked the puck from an onrushing Adrian Kempe, but it went right to the stick of Jeff Carter, who buried the game winner. Carter has been a difference-maker since his return from injury on Feb. 24, with eight goals in just 13 games.
In the Sharks 6-2 win over the New Jersey Devils, their fourth line and third defense pair combined for three goals and four assists. The Sharks have won a season-best five straight.
The Avalanche’s Tuesday victory over Chicago gave them at least one point in 11 of the last 12 games. The Avs continue to be among the best stories in the NHL this season. They have a hot goalie in Semyon Varlamov and Hart Trophy candidate in Nathan MacKinnon. The Avs had the worst record in the league last season with only 48 points. They’ll likely double that this season, with a real shot to get to 100.
But before the Avs can book their postseason ticket, they’ll need to succeed against a formidable schedule. The Avalanche, Sharks and Wild have the hardest schedules in the seven-team chase.
At the midpoint of the Ducks 4-0 Wednesday win over Calgary, the Flames were outshooting the Ducks by an 18-8 margin, but trailed 2-0. One of the Ducks scores was a shorthanded. Like San Jose and Colorado, the Ducks are also playing well. They’ve won four straight, giving up just four goals in total.
There are several games where the seven teams will go head-to-head, with a potential four-point swing. Credit to the schedule makers, the frequency of these games ramps up in the final ten days of the season. While we’re not quite there yet, we’ll let you know what happened the previous few days and what to look for in the days ahead.
Monday: Kings 4, Wild 3 (OT)
Thursday-Sunday Upcoming Games
Thursday: Kings v Avs
ZEKE is a native of the DC area where he witnessed the birth of the Capitals franchise. After graduating from Cornell University, which had seen hockey glory before he arrived, he moved west to San Jose. There he witnessed the birth of the Sharks franchise. His wait to witness a Championship from any of these teams finally ended in 2018.