The outlook for the 'rest' of the West

redwingsthrash.jpgEarlier this evening I discussed the five Eastern Conference teams who are battling for the last three playoff spots. The Western Conference has a similar situation in its bottom playoff ranks, although those teams are notably stronger. (Also, Calgary is the only squad with a realistic chance to make the four Western underdogs sweat for a playoff spot)

Much like that last post, I’ll break down each team’s advantages, upcoming schedule and how well they’ve been playing lately. Just to be friendly, I’ll even throw in the long shot Flames for good measure. The teams are listed in order of current (9:50 pm ET) playoff position.


Notes: The Predators have the most wins among the five teams (43). They have played 76 games, though, so they may risk being leapfrogged by Detroit and Los Angeles. Current points: 92

Thoughts on their schedule: They have a fairly reasonable schedule: three games at home and three on the road with one back-to-back set of games. They will also have one game against Detroit and one against Los Angeles, so they can “control their destiny” to some point.

Streak: Hot. They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and even had a six game winning streak recently. The team just won’t take “snore” for an answer.


Notes: Have you ever seen that moment in “The Thing” (the awesome ’80s version that is) in which everyone is having their blood tested to see who isn’t human? I think that Chicago, San Jose and Vancouver are encountering similar emotions when considering the possibility of a first round tilt with Detroit. Then again, I guess losing in the first round of the playoffs isn’t as bad as dealing with … this (warning: ridiculous horror movie gore in that video).

Current points: 91

Thoughts on their schedule: The Red Wings face a relatively easy schedule, with two games against Columbus, one against Edmonton and four out of seven at home.

Streak: Red Hot. Since March 11, the Red Wings collected a staggering 17 out of 18 possible points. They are currently on 5 game winning streak.

The rest on the other West lower seed hopefuls can be found after the jump.

avskings.jpgLos Angeles

Notes: The Kings are sliding quite a bit right now, but they have a fairly safe lead over the Flames. We’ll have to wait and see if they can keep the seventh seed from Colorado; who knows, though, they’re not that far behind Nashville and Detroit either. Current points: 90

Thoughts on their schedule: The Kings have four out of eight games on the road with two back-to-backs. They play once in Nashville and once in Colorado. Despite some tough patches, they get two games against Anaheim (not a cakewalk but the Ducks are struggling), one against Edmonton and one against Minnesota. I’d say that is a nice amount of “winnable” games.

Streak: Cold. They’ve lost three in a row and have generally been looking a little out of sorts lately. You have to wonder if they’re wearing Jonathan Quick out since he rarely gets more than one game off per month.


Notes: The Avalanche are running into their own issues of possibly over-extending a starting goalie. They’ve leaned heavily on Craig Anderson all year and you have to wonder if the first-time No. 1 can handle such a huge workload. He’s played all but one game since January 9, 2009.

Current points: 89

Thoughts on their schedule: It’s a mixed bag. The good news is that they are playing five of their last seven games in Colorado. The bad news is that they will play against powerhouse teams like San Jose, Vancouver and Chicago.

Streak: Lukewarm. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and lost four of their last five.


Notes: The Flames’ playoff hopes are on life support right now. They only have six games left this year and are four points behind eighth-seed Colorado.

Thoughts on their schedule: While the road/home split is even at 3 of six for both, they play 5 playoff caliber teams plus Minnesota to finish the year. That’s not good at all.

Streak: Their last ten games’ record is 5-5. That record might be a microcosm for Calgary’s entire season; it’s just been a series of frustrations for the Flames. 

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    Tippett wins 500th game as ‘Yotes bury Flames in overtime

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    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes grinded their way through the tough stretches, relied on great goaltending and won it on a big goal at the end.

    Call it a Dave Tippett special.

    Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in overtime, Mike Smith stopped 25 shots and the Arizona Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 Friday night for coach Tippett’s 500th career victory.

    “I’ve been involved in a lot of ugly games in that 500, so it’s probably fitting that was an ugly game,” said Tippett, who has 229 wins with Arizona and the rest with Dallas.

    It certainly was right out of the Tippett playbook.

    The Coyotes played a solid first period and both teams scored goals in the second on caroms: Martin Hanzal early for Arizona, Mark Giordano late on a power play for Calgary.

    Arizona followed with a series of penalties, but Smith was sharp for the second straight game to send this one to overtime.

    The Flames had the edge early in the 3-on-3 overtime, leaving the Coyotes gasping for air. Arizona flipped the ice for the final stretch, leaving Calgary’s players winded and scrambling.

    Arizona won it with 39 seconds left on the clock when Brad Richardson sent a pass from behind the goal to Ekman-Larsson, and he one-timed it past Karri Ramos.

    After the game, the Coyotes handed their championship belt, awarded to the player of the game, to their low-key coach after his milestone victory.

    “Coaches don’t have many milestones, but that’s a big one,” Smith said. “Players have milestones all the time, but coaches only have winning, which is all that matters, really.”

    The Flames certainly had their chances to win.

    Calgary had a rare power-play goal when Giordano scored his fifth of the season, but the Flames failed on five other chances with the man advantage to lose to Arizona for the first time in six games.

    Ramos stopped 18 in his first loss in five career games against Arizona and the Flames lost for the first time in six 3-on-3 overtimes.

    “It was a good road game,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “We played smart, we played hard, it’s just the result, we wish we could change it.”

    The Flames were coming off one of their worst performances of a disappointing season, blowing an early two-goal lead and a one-goal lead in the third period for a 5-3 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday night.

    The Flames went straight to Arizona, where they watched the Coyotes beat Anaheim 4-2 on Wednesday night.

    They played well and so did the Coyotes in a crisp first period.

    Arizona needed 29 seconds of the second to take the lead, when a sharp-angle shot by Tobias Rieder hit the far post and caromed off Hanzal into the goal.

    Smith stopped 29 shots against the Ducks and was sharp again, turning away some tough chances when the Flames picked up the pressure after Hanzal’s goal.

    The Coyotes took a series of penalties, though, and Giordano scored late in the period by wristing a loose puck through Smith’s legs to tie the game at 1-all. That ended a 0 for 16 streak on the power play for Calgary.

    Arizona kept sending players to the penalty box in the third period. The Coyotes killed off one penalty early and were called for another 8 seconds later but killed off both to get the game to overtime.

    “Obviously, we’d like to score on those power plays and grab some momentum, but we did some good things,” Flames defenseman Kris Russell said. “I thought we played a good game throughout, but at the end of the day, on special teams, we get one there, that’s the difference in the game.”

    NOTES: Coyotes captain Shane Doan missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … The Flames entered the game 29th on the power play with eight goals in 58 chances (13.3 percent). … Calgary C Jiri Hudler returned after missing two games with an illness.

    Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

    Niklas Kronwall
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    When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

    (His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

    It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

    He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

    First, the Kronwalling:

    Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

    It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

    Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

    Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

    Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

    Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

    It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

    To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

    The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

    That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

    They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

    Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


    More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

    In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

    Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

    Jack Eichel
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    The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

    You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

    That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

    Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.