Tag: pacific division race

Shane Doan

Phoenix Coyotes take Pacific Division for first time


The Phoenix Coyotes’ future in Glendale might be cloudy, but their future on the ice never looked better. Los Angeles Kings may always wonder “what if?” Ryane Clowe didn’t interfere with that puck, but now the Kings and Sharks only have the seventh seed to fight over tonight because the Coyotes just won the Pacific Division thanks to a 4-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild.

Much like another non-traditional franchise, this marks the Coyotes’ first division title. Really, it’s a wonderful peak for the impressive Dave Tippett era.

Of course, there’s a big but: they haven’t won a playoff series under Tippett’s watch just yet. To climb that mountain, they must defeat the sixth-seeded (and star-packed) Chicago Blackhawks as the third seed. Stay tuned for more on that upcoming series.

West playoff picture complete: Sharks, Kings and Coyotes are in

Stephane Robidas, Mike Fisher

With the Pacific Division title still up for grabs, it’s unfair to say that the Nashville Predators’ 2-0 win against the Dallas Stars killed the drama of matches like the Los Angeles Kings-San Jose Sharks home-and-home series. Still, the Predators’ pursuit of home ice advantage* sure made things a lot less interesting.

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Update: the Columbus Blue Jackets continue to revel in their role as spoilers; they eliminated the Colorado Avalanche with a 5-2 win.

What it clinched:

Playoff spots for the Phoenix Coyotes, Kings and Sharks.

Who’s eliminated:

The Stars would max out at 91 points, so the Predators hammered the final nail in their season. The Avalanche can only get 90, so they’re done too – and against a team that’s far less dangerous (although almost as dangerous lately).

Why there’s still some drama:

Again, the good news is that Pacific – and thus, the third seed – is still up for grabs. (Also, the seventh seed serves as a solid consolation prize.)

Sure, it’s not as thrilling as just about everyone fighting tooth-and-nail for a playoff spot, but notching the No. 3 spot can be a huge advantage – especially if the Vancouver Canucks and/or St. Louis Blues stumble in early playoff rounds. Still, it’s stunning to realize that the Stars could have been right there too if they took care of their late-season business.

* Nashville’s win and Detroit’s 2-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils means that the Predators only need a point to clinch the fourth seed and the huge (especially in negative way for the Red Wings) home ice advantage in their likely upcoming series. Of course, there’s also a chance the Chicago Blackhawks could slide into the fifth seed; check out this breakdown from On the Forecheck for all the headache-inducing details.

Drew Doughty admits Kings want to spoil Sharks’ playoffs chances

Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings

For all the criticism the NHL’s schedule receives, the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks’ home-and-home finale is a slice of brilliance. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty told CSNBayArea.com’s Kevin Kurz that the team would like nothing more than to spoil San Jose’s seemingly solid playoff chances during this duo of duels.

“We definitely want to do whatever we can to knock them out of the playoff picture,” Doughty said. “We want third place, and that’s what we’re going to play for. These two games mean a lot, not only for third place but just being able to push a team like that out of the playoffs is a big momentum boost for us.”

As Doughty points out, spite isn’t necessarily the main fuel driving the Kings. Much like the Sharks, two regulation losses and two Dallas Stars wins could boot them out of the postseason altogether. Getting a point would safeguard Los Angeles from such a fate, yet Jonathan Quick wants the team to set its goals higher.

“We have to prepare for tomorrow and get ready to get two points. We can’t be satisfied with just getting one point and getting in, we want to keep moving up. We want to win the division, and get that home ice.”

The Sharks are the most home-dependent of the Pacific contenders, but there’s no doubt that all of the contenders could benefit greatly from winning the third seed. The biggest difference is that Los Angeles holds tiebreaker advantages over San Jose and Phoenix, meaning that it has the most control of the race – even beyond the potential to knock the hated Sharks out of the playoffs

Sharks sweep huge home-and-home vs. Stars

Steve Ott,Brent Burns,Antti Niemi

Going into their home-and-home series, the Dallas Stars had a chance to essentially bury the San Jose Sharks. Instead, their bitter division rivals shoveled two huge regulation losses on top of them, including today’s soul-crushing 5-2 decision.

(In fact, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan didn’t say anything to the team after the loss because emotions were too high.)

Two of the standout moments came in the third period where San Jose was just a little bit better than Dallas. Jamie Benn received a partial breakaway and made a nice backhand move but Antti Niemi got his stick down to prevent a heart-stopper when it was 3-2. Just moments later, Joe Thornton scored his 17th goal of the season to make it 4-2 and essentially lock it down.

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The “clutch” criticisms of Thornton continue to wither away as he’s coming up big for San Jose in later months; he has 18 points in February and generated 15 in March. (He’s quietly putting together another nice season as his 75 points ties him for 14th overall in the NHL.)

What’s next for Dallas, San Jose

Now, it’s true that much like the Colorado Avalanche, the Stars aren’t technically done. They’re now simply reduced to last week in the NFL-type scenarios where they root for different teams to win and lose at different times while needing to squeeze every point they can out of two remaining games.

By a similar token, the Sharks aren’t assured of a spot. Here’s what the West situation looks like at the moment, with a crucial Columbus Blue Jackets-Phoenix Coyotes still to be determined:

3. Los Angeles – 93 points, 34 regulation/OT wins, two games left

7. San Jose – 92 points, 33 regulation/OT wins, two games left
8. Phoenix – 91, 33 regulation/OT wins, three games left (one tonight)

9. Dallas – 89, 35 regulation/OT wins, two games left
10. Colorado – 88, 32 regulation/OT wins, two games left

Depending upon how the Coyotes fare, the Sharks’ home-and-home series against the Los Angeles Kings might just decide the Pacific Division title. Meanwhile, Dallas essentially must hope that one of the three teams ahead of them finishes with as few points as possible (to keep it simple).

The Stars face the Predators in Nashville and host the St. Louis Blues in their last two games, so those are tough draws from both the quality of opponent and the fact that they cannot influence other bubble teams. Dallas had its chance to do that and watched both games go up in smoke – in regulation.

This just in: Darryl Sutter is “not Nostradamus”

Darryl Sutter
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Rob Scuderi didn’t offer any excuses to Rich Hammond when asked about the Los Angeles Kings’ “missed point” from a shootout loss against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Dustin Brown spoke about coughing up a lead.

Yet in the grand scheme of things, well-known source of sunshine/head coach Darryl Sutter seemed pretty upbeat about the Kings’ work in their four-game road trip and the last two nights in particular.

(on whether this was a “good’’ trip, and almost a “great’’ trip…)
SUTTER: “Yeah, I think so. Heck, that’s what I told them. We got three out of four (points) in a day. And five out of six in less than four days. I think if you’d have said that, at any other time than right now, you’d say it was great.”

(on being able to control their fate with three games left…)
SUTTER: “Big point. I’m not a philosopher or Nostradamus or nothing. I can’t do any of that stuff. We got our 91st point tonight, and hopefully it’s a big one.”

So, to review: good but not great trip; Sutter is not Nostradamus.

Anyway, the Kings are currently in control of the Pacific Division lead even though the Phoenix Coyotes also have 91 standings points. The Kings, Coyotes, San Jose Sharks (90 points) and Dallas Stars (89 points) all have three games left while the Colorado Avalanche (88) have two remaining.

Los Angeles has a home game against the Edmonton Oilers and then that home-and-home with the Sharks to end the season. Ultimately, the Kings will only have themselves (and perhaps the Sharks) to blame if they don’t make the playoffs.

Just don’t ask Sutter to make predictions.