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.

Nashville

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.

Detroit

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.

Colorado

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.

Calgary

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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    Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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    As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

    First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

    The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

    That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

    Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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    For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

    Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

    West teams get it done

    Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

    The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists.

    This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

    East teams stumble, some get over it

    Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

    Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

    Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

    Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

    Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

    Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
    Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
    Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

    Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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    For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

    With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

    As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

    He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

    Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

    Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

    Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

    Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

    Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

    Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

    Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

    Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

    Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

    Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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    Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

    The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

    While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

    Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

    With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

    Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

    Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
    Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
    Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

    Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

    Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?