Tag: Western Conference playoff bubble

Edmonton Oilers v Los Angeles Kings

Drew Doughty admits Kings want to spoil Sharks’ playoffs chances


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.

West update: Now the Kings lead the Pacific Division

Kings Oilers Hockey

I’m a big fan of parity in the NHL, but for those who glorify the days of stability and a handful of teams running roughshod over competition, this has been a dark month or two. The Pacific Division might be the greatest enemy of consistency, as the top spot is being treated like a hot potato going from the San Jose Sharks to the Dallas Stars and finally to the Los Angeles Kings after tonight’s results.

To keep with the tradition of wide-ranging West impact updates, I’ll go ahead in order of where the teams rank as of this writing.

(3) Los Angeles 4, Edmonton 1

The Kings beat down a beaten down Edmonton Oilers team tonight to (more than a little bit ridiculously) take the division lead. Jonathan Quick needed a laughable 13-for-14 save night to beat the Oil while four different Kings found the net.

(4) Nashville hops over (5) Detroit (read here); (6) Chicago was idle

Vancouver Canucks kick around Stars down to seventh place

Hopefully the Dallas Stars didn’t get too comfy in third place because the second place Vancouver Canucks destroyed them 5-2. There really wasn’t much of a doubt about this one, as the Canucks just looked downright better than the Stars. (Probably because, at least at this moment, they very much are.)

(8) Phoenix was idle

(9) San Jose was idle, too, but …

The road to the playoffs looks like it will go through the Sharks – in one way or another. First, San Jose begins a home-and-home with the Stars on Saturday. There isn’t much of an excuse for them to be worn out against Dallas tomorrow considering the fact the Stars got kicked around tonight. (Oh, and Ray Ratto points out that the Stars are an ugly 1-10-2 on the tail end of back-to-backs this season.)

If that wasn’t big enough, the Sharks’ final two games of the season are a home-and-home set against the current Pacific leader Los Angeles. It’s anyone’s guess what exactly will be on the line then, but it’s hard to imagine those games being anything but huge.

Finally, moving on from the Pacific-specific teams but certainly a Pacific-relevant development:

(10) Colorado deals a big blow to (11) Calgary

The Avalanche face some tough odds to make the playoffs, as they’ll likely need to root for a lot of two-point games and extreme results (up-and-down won’t cut it). If nothing else, they probably won’t need to worry much about the Flames after handling them by a score of 4-1.

Colorado also has some positives to build on for next season, particularly with the stretch run work of Semyon Varlamov, who stopped 38 out of 31 shots to keep the Avs alive – for the moment.

Why winning the Pacific is kind of a big deal

Calgary Flames v Dallas Stars

Many people have analogized the Pacific Division race to musical chairs – and with good reason. It seems like the top seed changes all the time and without much reason yet with a strange amount of rhythm.

(Excuse me for underrating the art of musical chairs, but winning the Pacific does take more skill, though.)

CSNBayArea.com’s Brad Weimer originally looked at the advantages that would come from gaining a third round spot from a San Jose Sharks’ perspective, but it works for all the four teams with a shot at the crown. Here are some of the numbers that show the difference between finishing in third versus the likely alternative – the seventh or eighth seed.

(Warning: there will be some all caps.)


3rd Seed: 26.4%
7-8 Seeds: 8.8%

With LESS chances (there are only two 3 seeds per year vs. four 7-8 seeded teams) the 3 seeds make the conference finals over THREE TIMES as much as teams seeded 7 or 8.


3rd Seed: 14.7%
7-8 Seeds: 7.3%

Being a 3 seed DOUBLES your chances of making the Stanley Cup Finals over being seeded 7 or 8.

What about the Sharks ultimate goal, hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup as the champions of the NHL?  Well here’s the bottom line folks….

There have been three Stanley Cup Champions from the third seed under this playoff format.  From the last two seeds?  ZERO.  Five teams have made it to the Finals, but all have gone home in defeat (ask Bret Hedican (’94) and Curtis Brown (’99) who both have been on the losing end as an underdog team in the Finals).

Weimer emphasizes the Stanley Cup finals gap, but really, the conference finals gap is bigger, includes a slightly larger sample size and probably emphasizes the difference in advantage more than anything else.

Either way, both conferences have exposed the somewhat-arbitrary nature of handing a top-three seed to a division winner regardless of the putridity of that given division.*

Sports Club Stats illustrates how close the race is both in terms of who is likely to make the playoffs and win the division.

There are plenty of ways to break down the race for that top spot, then, but a woolly sports writer might want to lean on the old “road goes through” line with the Sharks. San Jose’s final five games are all against Pacific contenders. They’ll face the Stars twice, Coyotes once and then finish the season with a home-and-home against the Kings.

It might take until the end of that duo of matches to find out who ends up with the Pacific crown – and perhaps a marked advantage once the playoffs begin.

* – Personally, it seems like it would be fairer to give the worst division winner at least the fourth seed. It’s unfair to ding up a division winner too much if they’re in an especially competitive group – the Vancouver Canucks’ cakewalk in the Northwest provides a useful counterpoint – but the automatic top-three seed seems to encourage convenient mediocrity.