Tag: Western Conference playoff races

Niklas Backstrom, Loui Eriksson, Kim Johnsson

Banged-up Stars improbably stand alone in eighth place


If any Western Conference bubble team has an excuse to fade from the playoffs, it’s the Dallas Stars.

Their All-Star Jamie Benn suffered his second hard-luck injury of the season when a skate blade cut his leg. Brenden Morrow’s on the IR and really hasn’t been right all year. Mike Ribeiro, Alex Goligoski, Kari Lehtonen and even Loui Eriksson have missed some time here and there.

Combine those injuries with a shoe-string budget, undeniably sparse home crowds and even a bit of deck-clearing via trades and it’s downright stupefying that this Stars team keeps chugging along.

They’re doing that right now, though, as Dallas established sole possession of eighth place in the Western Conference with a defiant 4-1 win against the Minnesota Wild. Maybe you can discount triumphing in back-to-back games because Minny was doing the same, but it’s an impressive feat nonetheless.

Dallas is now on a three-game winning streak and stands at 3-1-1 in the five games following Benn’s latest ailment. The biggest factor has been goaltending, as Kari Lehtonen has allowed a single goal in his last two games while Richard Bachman allowed a lone tally against the dangerous Blackhawks in Chicago last night. It hasn’t just been about their netminding, either, as they’ve gotten a little of everything to thrive in unlikely circumstances.


Can they keep it up and make the playoffs, though? It looks like the race will be awfully close. Sports Club Stats currently gives them a slight edge to hold onto eighth place, as they have a 36.2 percent chance to make the playoffs compared to Calgary (32.9), Los Angeles (25.4) and Colorado (18.5).

Yup, it won’t be easy, but you’d be wise not to bet against the Stars at this point.

Kings face tough odds to stay in playoffs

Mike Cammalleri, Mike Richards
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Many people probably already wondered this, but last night’s 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche really makes this question a necessity: are the Los Angeles Kings going to miss the playoffs? Let’s break it down.

The standings

First things first, glance at the West playoff picture.

source:  (click to enlarge)

The nerdy perspective

Los Angeles would be in the playoffs if they began today but the Kings aren’t in Sports Club Stats’ top eight over the long haul. The trusty Web site puts the Calgary Flames’ odds significantly higher (40.1 percent chance), while the Kings (29.1 percent) edge the Dallas Stars (22.1 percent) for ninth place.

The Kings’ loss to Colorado dropped their odds by a whopping 12.2 percent, so even unfeeling supercomputers* hated that defeat.

What the Kings need to do

By Sports Club’s calculations, Los Angeles likely needs to churn out an 11-6-4 record to make the playoffs. (That record gives them a 73 percent chance.) A 12-6-3 (86.3 percent) or 13-6-2 (94.1 percent) mark would really do the job, though.

Can they do it? Teams can certainly overcome tough schedules, but they can swing the tide of close battles in a parity-laced league

Kings’ schedule overall

The Kings have 21 games left this season, with nine at home and 12 on the road.

The good news is that might be better on the road than at home (perhaps because of their not-so-thrilling style). The Kings are a mediocre 15-13-4 at the Staples Center and a scrappy 12-9-8 abroad.

Los Angeles better retain its road warrior status coming up, though, because the next few weeks good get ugly.

Big challenges up ahead

After a home game against Chicago on Saturday, the Kings play six of seven games on the road, with plenty of tough Central Division matches (only one coming against Columbus). Mid-March provides a reward of five out of six home games, but then they end March with a rigorous four-game trip through the Northwest.

With that in mind, a March 28 match against the Flames in Calgary could have gigantic playoff implications. It’s also quite possible that a home-and-home series with the San Jose Sharks could very well make-or-break their playoff hopes.

(Oh, in case you’re wondering, the Flames play 14 out of their 22 remaining contests in Calgary, which is probably why those foreboding supercomputers seem to love them so much.)


Looking at the situation, I don’t feel fantastic about the Kings’ playoff hopes – especially with the seventh-seeded Phoenix Coyotes building themselves a nice cushion. If GM Dean Lombardi believes his job’s in jeopardy, he better trade for reinforcements because this won’t be easy.

* Note: I assume all formulas are created by unfeeling supercomputers. I am not a man of science.

Gauging the surging Anaheim Ducks’ playoff prospects

Anaheim Ducks v Pittsburgh Penguins

The hot-and-cold Anaheim Ducks are downright torrid now, but if you want to put their overall body of work in perspective, peek at their record after a 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Click here to see Teemu Selanne’s game-winning [and historic] goal.)

24-24-9 for 57 points.

As hot as the Ducks have been – and as eerily familiar as this run is becoming compared to last season’s surge – the team is just now at .500. That doesn’t sound like the stuff of a Western Conference playoff team, but let’s dig a little deeper.

The cold, nerdy perspective

Sports Club Stats is the generally agreed-upon source for sober analysis of every team’s playoff chances. That site’s forecast of the Ducks’ chances isn’t very sunny right now: they’re currently at 6 percent, which places them 13th overall in the West.

The schedule

Anaheim’s immediate future doesn’t lend much in the way of optimism – at least if you ignore the context of its scalding run. The Ducks still have four road games in a row and five of their next six away from Anaheim. There’s also a four-out-of-five away run to in early March.

Trending up

That schedule bit can only rain on the Ducks’ parade so much because they’ve gone 3-0-1 in the first half of their current eight-game road trip. The Ducks are also enjoying a seven-game points streak (5-0-2) and have been hot in general since the New Year, putting together an impressive 14-3-3 mark.

The big picture

Excluding the four bubble teams in front of them for the sake of sanity, the Ducks are six points behind eighth-place Phoenix and trail the Blackhawks and Kings by eight as of this writing. Anaheim has 11 home and 14 road games remaining on its schedule.

Circling back to Sports Club Stats, the Ducks would have a 61.1 percent chance to make the playoffs if they go 16-7-2, a 78 percent chance if they go 16-6-3 and so on. In other words, they’d need to more-or-less duplicate the great work from 2012 while hoping that some of their peers stumble.


The Ducks face a steep mountain, but they did last season as well. Can they do it again? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Here are highlights from that Ducks-Penguins game:

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Breaking down the race for the West’s final playoff spots

George Parros, Raitis Ivanans

Earlier this week, the NBC Sports Network gang took a look at the Western Conference playoff picture, as you can watch in the following clip:

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Want a more detailed playoff picture? NBC’s standings page provides more in-depth numbers, from games played to full records.

source:  (click to enlarge)

No one’s truly untouchable, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s say that the Vancouver Canucks and every Central Division team not named the Columbus Blue Jackets are safe for now. With that in mind, let’s look at the two most interesting races.

Kings, Sharks battle for Pacific

Much like the Southeast Division race, the top two Pacific teams could get a gift of a top-three seed if they win the division. The difference is that the gap between the San Jose Sharks (60 points in 47 games played) and the Los Angeles Kings (58 points in 50 games played) is larger than the one between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers. Still, one must at least acknowledge the Kings’ chance to make a mini-run at take the Pacific.

Race for the bottom two spots

For the sake of the bigger picture, the Kings should be considered a part of the race for one of the bottom two spots. They’re generally in a good position, although they’ll have to survive on the road with 20 of their last 32 games away from home.

Wild vs. Avalanche

The next group one can notice is the eighth and ninth seeds are the Minnesota Wild (eighth place with 55 points in 49 contests) and Colorado Avalanche (ninth place with 54 points in 51 contests). This week’s Wild win gave them a nice buffer ahead of Colorado and it doesn’t stop there. The Wild play 19 of their last 33 games in Minnesota while the Avalanche only has one extra home game (16 in Colorado, 15 on the road).

Three at 52

The Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes take spots 10-12 with 55 points apiece. The 10th place Stars are in a decent position to move up since they’ve only played 48 games and already piled up 25 wins. Sixteen of their final games are at home while 18 are on the road, so it’s not all great news.

Both Calgary and Phoenix reached 52 in 50 games with the Flames in the No. 11 spot because they have an extra victory. Calgary will play 19 games at home and 13 away while the Coyotes play 18 games in Phoenix and 14 on the road, so their dreams are far from dead.


Overall, I’d guess that the Sharks have a great shot at the Pacific Division, the Kings should get a lower seed and Minnesota at least has a head start on eighth place. Colorado’s ninth spot might be inflated, the Stars have some games in hand and Phoenix/Calgary have enough home games to make some noise. We haven’t even discussed the Anaheim Ducks.

When it comes to the West, you never really know … unless you’re the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Dallas Stars face must-win (in regulation or overtime) game against Minnesota Wild

Mikko Koivu, Greg Zanon, Adam Burish

In case you missed it, the Chicago Blackhawks lost to the Detroit Red Wings in regulation, giving the Dallas Stars an improbable chance to make the playoffs after a season full of twists and turns. The goal is straightforward and simple, even if attaining it might not be: all the Stars need is a win in regulation or overtime and they’ll make the playoffs. Anything less — including a shootout win — and Chicago will be the eighth seed instead.

With that in mind, the question is painfully obvious: can the Stars do it? Here’s a preview of tonight’s all-or-nothing game.

The Stars’ recent dominant performances against the Wild

Going into tonight’s game, there’s really no doubt about it: the Stars own the Wild. They are 3-0-0 against Minnesota in the 2010-11 season, but the domination expands beyond that. Dallas is on a six-game winning streak against them and are 11-2-0 in the two clubs’ last 13 games.

There are two ways to look at this trend. An optimist (and probably a realist) would say the Stars are the odds-on favorites. Yet a pessimist might wonder if something has to give; can Dallas really keep beating up on Minnesota?

The historical aspect

Much like the Red Wings’ rivalry with the Blackhawks, the Wild might have a slightly higher amount of energy in this one based on the opponent they hope to spite, even if they will face their last game of the season while Detroit wanted to build playoff momentum. It’s probably true that Wild players don’t care that much about the fact that the Dallas Stars were once the Minnesota North Stars, but you know who does care?

Minnesota hockey fans, that’s who. Don’t be surprised if there’s a charged atmosphere because of that history.


As we mentioned in today’s starting goalies post, Jose Theodore is expected to be in Minnesota’s net while workhorse Kari Lehtonen will play for Dallas as usual. Avoiding Niklas Backstrom is obviously a bonus for the Stars, but Theodore has been quite efficient as his backup.

Here are the remaining starting lineups for both teams, via Hockey Wilderness.

(click to enlarge)


So, the question is: can the Stars finally make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season? The numbers are certainly on their side and as a fan of legitimate competition, it’s exciting to know that a shootout win won’t cut it.

The Blackhawks have no one to blame but themselves for being in the situation they are in. Likewise, the Stars will face about six months of regret if they cannot beat the Minnesota Wild.

For hockey fans, this is what it’s all about. If you want to follow the action, stick with PHT and check out the game at 6:00 pm ET on NHL Network. If it’s anywhere near as exciting as the Red Wings-Blackhawks game, this game should be a real treat.