Tag: schedule analysis

Tomas Fleischmann, Dalton Prout

Panthers might not win the Southeast after all


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.