Tag: schedule analysis

Gabriel Bourque, Jordin Tootoo, Paul Gaustad

Predators win big one in home ice chase against Red Wings


If the playoffs began right at this moment, the Nashville Predators would hold a crucial home-ice advantage over the Detroit Red Wings in an intriguing playoff match. Both teams still have four games to go, but Nashville made something of a statement in beating them 4-1 in Detroit.

The biggest span came in the second period when the Predators took a 2-0 lead despite an 18-7 shot disadvantage. Pekka Rinne (31 out of 32 saves) was the biggest star of that period and the game, yet one could say that Alexander Radulov’s goal ranks as the most ominous sign for a Red Wings team that isn’t very happy to see him back in the NHL.

Naturally, a one-point lead isn’t perfectly safe for the Predators, even if the Red Wings have been struggling lately. Fortunes can turn on a dime during the stretch run, as just about every part of the NHL’s playoff race has shown us.

Let’s take a look at the two teams’ final four games, then:

Predators’ remaining schedule

Saturday: vs. Chicago
April 3: vs. Minnesota
April 5: vs. Dallas
April 7: at Colorado

Red Wings’ remaining schedule

Sunday: vs. Florida
April 4: at St. Louis
April 5: vs. New Jersey
April 7: vs. Chicago

The Florida Panthers already revealed that a team’s “on paper” schedule only matters so much, but it would appear that Nashville faces a slightly easier road to the fourth seed. All four of Detroit’s opponents are likely to be in the playoffs and while the Devils might not have much to play for, the Panthers will be desperate and the two Central opponents would likely love to hand it to the team that has beguiled the entire division for its entire existence. Back-to-back games can’t help an older Red Wings team’s cause, either.

That’s not to say that it’s a cakewalk for the Predators, though. Both teams enjoy three of their last four contests at home, which likely is a bigger factor for the more home-dependent Red Wings. As much as those Central teams would like to “stick it” to Detroit, the Stars and Avalanche are likely to be desperate at the end of this season (unless Colorado ends up getting booted altogether).

A banner night for Predators franchise

It’s quite the way for Nashville head coach Barry Trotz to get his 500th career win – all with the Predators. The Associated Press frames what this win means for Trotz and Nashville’s distinguished GM David Poile.

Trotz is the fifth coach to win 500 games with one franchise, joining the New York Islanders’ Al Arbour, Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, Chicago’s Billy Reay and Montreal’s Toe Blake.

Predators general manager David Poile, whose savvy drafting has helped the smaller-market franchise consistently win, is the first NHL general manager to win 500 games with two teams. He helped the Washington Capitals win 594 games from 1982-97 before getting the Predators ready for the 1998-99 season, their debut in the league.

It’s the kind of franchise-building that should create a blueprint for future(?) expansion teams and makes for a worrisome opponent for the mighty Red Wings.

Panthers might not win the Southeast after all

Tomas Fleischmann, Dalton Prout

When the likely sixth-seed New Jersey Devils face off against the eventual Southeast Division winner, they’re probably not going to be too intimidated. Still, the Florida Panthers at least carried the most inspiring story into the possible division crown and the third seed that comes with it, but that triumph suddenly is in some doubt.

The Blue Jackets gave the Panthers a sound 4-1 beating in Columbus tonight, holding Florida to 90 standings points – just four more than the ninth-place Washington Capitals with both teams having four games left on their schedules. (And come to think of it, the Caps actually hold the tiebreaker advantage at the moment, so one could call it the equivalent to a “three” point lead.)

Flopping down the stretch

On paper, the Panthers should have been socking away points lately, but they’re instead 1-2-3 in their last six games, needing a shootout win against the lowly Montreal Canadiens for their only victory. In that time, they’ve lost shootouts to the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers, regulation losses to the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes and an OT defeat to the Minnesota Wild.

In other words, if Florida manages a seemingly unthinkable drop from the playoffs, they’ll blame other teams that are golfing early.

Setting up for a showdown against Washington

The schedule gets more interesting after tonight, so if motivation is an issue, half of Florida’s schedule will give them extra inspiration. It starts with an away game against the Detroit Red Wings, then a presumably “easy” home game against the Winnipeg Jets.

It gets really interesting on Thursday, April 5, however. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals in what could be the Southeast Division’s version of the New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins – a game that could have serious division title implications (especially if it ends in regulation). After that, the Panthers will face the Hurricanes at home – which very well might be a fight for their Southeast title – and maybe even playoff – lives.

Coyotes take seventh seed in West, knock Sharks out of top eight

Los Angeles Kings v Phoenix Coyotes
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Radim Vrbata might be one of the quietest 30-goal scorer in the NHL but his impact won’t slip under the San Jose Sharks’ radars. Vrbata scored his 31st and 32nd tallies to power the Phoenix Coyotes’ 2-0 win, bumping the ‘Yotes to seventh place in the West and dumping the Sharks to ninth.

Mike Smith and Ryan Whitney also had nights to remember. Smith collected his third shutout of the season against the Sharks alone while Whitney’s two assists park him at 999 career regular season points.

Impact on Coyotes, Sharks

With all the talk of Quebec, many wonder how many games the Coyotes have left in Phoenix. Winning games like these greatly increases its chances of at least adding some playoff contests to the possible “farewell tour.”

While the Coyotes are making the most of things, the Sharks continue to make life more difficult for themselves. After dropping one of the relatively “easy” games by losing to the Anaheim Ducks last night. It also carries on a worst-case scenario trend of defeats in regulation as four straight letdowns didn’t even result in a charity point, which seems downright required in the skin-tight stretch run.

The odds

Sports Club Stats paints a grim picture for the Sharks. The three Pacific Division teams ahead of them have at least an 81.1 percent chance to make the postseason – now with the Coyotes leading the way at 83.6 percent – while San Jose’s odds dropped 19.2 percent to just 44.9 percent.

Plenty of opportunities for change

All those numbers don’t matter as much as the raw results, obviously, which is a good and a bad thing for the Sharks. They’re four remaining games are a home-and-home against the Stars and a home-and-home against the Kings. Ultimately, San Jose can turn things around by putting things together in the final four contests.

Phoenix doesn’t have its future in its hands quite the same to degree, so they’ll probably hope San Jose sticks to playing in two-point games. The Coyotes host Anaheim and Columbus before two road games who have little to play for for very different reasons (St. Louis and Minnesota).


It all looks much better for the Coyotes – and really the Stars and Kings – but the schedule and small room for error just-about guarantee a photo finish.

Capitals fall short in a huge game – again


Sure, it’s perfectly reasonable to focus on the Buffalo Sabres’ big 5-1 win, but let’s face it. The Washington Capitals’ 2011-12 season is a story of seemingly perpetual disappointment and this latest whooping just spotlights that.

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The excuses are in short supply, too.

Dale Hunter opted to start Braden Holtby, a goalie whose small sample success almost comically camouflages the fact that he probably shouldn’t have been in this position.

Holtby eventually seceded the net after allowing three early goals, but even in a precarious spot at 3-1, the Capitals had half of a game to take advantage of a Sabres defense that was suddenly short two of its best guys when Andrej Sekera and Christian Ehrhoff were sidelined. Instead, Washington allowed a backbreaking Jason Pominville shorthanded goal in the second period and a Drew Stafford 5-1 tally halfway through the final frame.

The Capitals cannot even pin the tail of blame on their road woes, either, as they watched the Sabres take a two-point lead for the East’s eighth seed at the Verizon Center.

About the only signs of life were that Alexander Semin scored their only goal and they at least fired a desperate amount of shots, hammering 35 on goal in the final 40 minutes alone.

Still some hope

Sure, they wouldn’t scare anyone, but it wouldn’t be impossible for the Capitals to back into the playoffs even after this disgraceful defeat. Here are the remaining schedules for Washington and Buffalo:

Caps sked

Thursday: at Boston
Saturday: vs. Montreal
April 2: at Tampa Bay
April 5: vs. Florida
April 7: at Rangers

Sabres schedule

Friday: vs. Pittsburgh
Saturday: at Toronto
April 3: vs. Toronto
April 5: at Philadelphia
April 7: at Boston


Washington trails Buffalo by two standings points after this loss, which is no-doubt enormous. The good news for the Capitals is that they hold the regulation/OT win tiebreaker advantage (36 to 31), so the Sabres need to finish with at least an extra point.

On paper, the Capitals’ schedule actually seems a bit easier, although Buffalo will likely lap up at least three points in that home-and-home series against the free-falling Toronto Maple Leafs.


All of that hopeful discussion aside, this is an enormous win for Buffalo and a brutal loss for the Capitals. Washington can only look in the mirror to explain its problems and it’s hard to say that the team has it in them to shake off this loss.

Even if they do, the Capitals also have to hope that the Sabres stumble along the way after losing “control of their destiny” tonight.

Capitals get a point in loss to Flyers, prepare for huge homestand

Alex Ovechkin

One could say that the Washington Capitals started holding their breath from the moment Alex Ovechkin gave them a 1-0 lead just 26 seconds into tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Capitals managed to hang on through next three periods and overtime, only allowing Claude Giroux’s game-tying goal before ultimately succumbing to Philly in the shootout.

Either way, the Capitals can now exhale after a challenging road trip. Really, Washington’s five-game road trip (2-2-1) might be a good barometer of whether or not a given Caps fan is a glass-half-full type, too.

The good news

On the bright side, the Capitals bounced back from a tough loss to the Jets in Winnipeg to salvage what looked like a four-game losing streak waiting to happen. Sure, they lost a rough game against the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2, but then they beat the Red Wings in Detroit and squeezed a charity point out of tonight’s game against red-hot Ilya Bryzgalov and the always-tough Philadelphia Flyers.

Oh yeah, Ovechkin’s 33rd goal already eclipses his tally total from last season, so that’s a plus, too.

Negative side

Of course, there’s also the missed opportunities. Losing to the Jets will burn if they can’t win their last meeting against Winnipeg and negative types might question Washington’s “killer instinct.” Did they settle for overtime instead of trying to go for the jugular in regulation?

To some, it’ll be hard to shake the feeling that the Capitals are content to “back in” to the playoffs – if that works, that is.

What lies ahead

By getting through that gauntlet with their playoff status currently intact, they’re in line to put themselves in a comfortable position – but they’ll need to win some big games.

That starts tomorrow, as the Capitals face the Jets in Washington. From there they need to kick the Minnesota when they’re down and then beat another bubble contender in the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday to wrap-up a huge three-game homestand.

After that, they’ll travel to Boston to face the Bruins, host the Montreal Canadiens, face the Lightning in Tampa Bay, play a home game against the Florida Panthers and then finish the season against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The odds

Sports Club Stats indicates that the Capitals took a baby step toward the playoffs with this win. Their playoff odds jumped 1.9 percent to 74.8 while Buffalo is down 1.1 percent to 22.9 and Winnipeg slips .3 percent to just 9.2.

Naturally, those upcoming games between both teams could drastically change the picture. The big plus side for the Capitals is that those matches will take place in Washington, but they’re still going to need to come up big with the spotlight shining on them more than any regular season contests in recent memory.