Wild Western Conference: Fallen Stars Edition

We’ve put together a quick and simple view of the teams locked in this close Western Conference playoff chase. 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, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames aren’t going to make it, leaving seven teams fighting for the remaining five playoff spots.

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. When we started this on Mar. 15, eight teams were projected within six points, but three teams have distanced themselves in the 10 days since. One team took off. The Sharks seven-game win streak has given them a nice cushion. Given their tough upcoming schedule, it’s a cushion they might need. It’s a sliver too early to lock in the Sharks for a playoff spot.

Two teams fell down. Calgary, already on the bottom, dropped like a rock and out of contention. Like Calgary, the Dallas Stars also fell in a hurry, but a loftier starting point allowed them more time to recover. It was not enough. For the fallen Stars, winless in their last eight games, its time to worry about next season.

Western Conference playoff chase standings through Mar. 25, 2018

We’re now down to six teams fighting for five spots. The six teams remaining had a good four days, compiling an 8-2-2 record. None of these contenders can afford to slip up with the group playing so well collectively.

Notable Events, Mar. 22-25

Before the Colorado Avalanche can book their postseason ticket, they’ll need to succeed against a formidable schedule. The Kings clobbered the Avs, 7-1 on Thursday. But the beatdown didn’t seem to scare them. Two days later, in a tight, tense game, the Avs prevailed with a shootout win over Pacific Division-leading Vegas.

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
Semyon Varlamov  (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Fresh off the seven-goal outburst against the Avs, the Kings could have used a spare goal or two for their visit to Edmonton. The suddenly hot Oilers took down the Kings, 3-2 on Saturday. Naturally, it was Conner McDavid doing the heavy lifting, scoring two of the Oilers three goals.

At the midpoint of the Ducks’ 4-0 Wednesday win over Calgary, the Flames were outshooting the Ducks by an 18-8 but trailing 2-0. By game’s end, Ducks goalie John Gibson had saved all 29 shots on goal by the Flames. Though they won, the Ducks only had 16 shots on goal of their own.

In their Friday game against Winnipeg, the Ducks story mostly repeated. Again, they only put up 16 shots on goal in regulation, this time giving up 41. Still, they managed to get to overtime before losing 3-2. Gibson, with 68 saves and just two allowed goals in regulation, was the first star in both games. On Sunday, the Ducks faced the Oilers, looking to play spoilers as they were in their prior game with the Kings. The Oilers led 3-1 in the third period, but Anaheim tied it at 3-3. The Oilers scored again, but with just over a minute left, so did the Ducks. The game went into overtime tied at 4-4, with Hampus Lindholm winning it for the Ducks.

In the Sharks 5-1 Saturday win over Calgary, four players scored the five Sharks goals. Though the Sharks have 11 players who’ve scored 10 or more goals for the team, none of the 11 had a goal against the Flames.

The Wild had an unusual five days off, and when they finally returned to the ice, they took care of Nashville on Saturday. In the 4-1 win, they held the red-hot Predators to just 20 shots on goal. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau earned career win No. 500 in the effort.

Bruce Boudreau
Bruce Boudreau (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

The Blues ventured to Columbus on Saturday to take on the league’s hottest team, the Blue Jackets, winners of ten straight. The Blues came out on top 2-1, ending the Blue Jackets win streak. The league’s longest win streak now belongs to San Jose, which stands at seven games. Should San Jose beat Chicago on Monday, the Blues will have a chance to snap another lengthy win streak when they host the Sharks on Tuesday.

Four-Point Games

There are several games where the six 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.

  Thursday-Sunday  Results

Thursday: Kings 7, Avs 1

Friday: –

Saturday: –

Sunday: –

 Monday-Wednesday Upcoming Games

Monday: –

Tuesday: – Sharks v Blues

Wednesday: –