The playoff cutoff today almost has an Atlantic Division feel simply because you have the bubble which is slowly starting to show signs of clearing up but also some parts of it are getting more dirty. When you think about the Western Conference, it is believed that 97 points will still get you into the second season.
One good thing is a lot of the fringe teams are theoretically eliminated. Now seeding is still a big question and we may lightly touch on that here and then the next Eastern Conference post. Times are getting crucial. Teams have gone into put up or shut up mode.
When you start digging into record and sample sizes, it is clear that the West is quite congested in clusters much like the East. Both conferences have started to come and focus like we said. It is not just a question of fine tuning and seeding. Who does the bubble burst for? It really does come down to three teams battling for two spots where the East is two teams battling for one spot more or less unless another team collapses donw the stretch.
Ultimately, point projections may have to be revised due to strength of schedule but sticking to our guns for now is the plan. Let us lay out the landscape. Please remember the teams we do not mention have been long since eliminated (Arizona and Edmonton). They are battling for a different prize. Teams will either have a clinched, eliminated, or record needed to equal 97 points.
NHL Playoff Cutout: West Standings
- Anaheim — 78 GP: 105 pts — Clinched
- Nashville — 78 GP: 103 pts — Clinched
- St. Louis — 76 GP: 99 pts — Clinched
- Chicago — 76 GP: 98 pts — Clinched
- Minnesota — 76 GP: 95 pts: 1-5
- Vancouver — 77 GP: 95 pts: 1-4
- Calgary — 77 GP: 91 pts: 3-2
- Winnipeg — 77 GP: 90 pts: 3-1-1
- Los Angeles — 76 GP: 88 pts: 4-1-1
- Dallas — 77 GP: 84pts: Eliminated
- San Jose: 76 GP: 83 pts: Eliminated
- Colorado: 77 GP: 82 pts: Eliminated
San Jose might be the only team allowed back in and even then that is doubtful as with tougher schedules and some unanticipated losses, the point scale may slide a little like the possibility exists in the East. Let us use color coding to make things a bit more clear here.
The top teams have clinched and the bottom teams have obviously reserved an April 12th tee time, but the red is on the wrong side of the bubble. That is Los Angeles. They, in theory, have the hardest road ahead. It is not there but they have to really put another four wins in five games stretch to be in better position.
Then there is Winnipeg, who has also lost two games in a row and the last one in crushing fashion to the New York Rangers. They may be a scary team once they get in but they have to secure a spot first. That will be no easy matter as Ondrej Pavelec is their starting goalie right at this moment and that has some running toward the phone booths like that scene in “Airplane.” That is how messy the West still is despite some focusing.
Finally, there is the Calgary Flames. They have been some fun teams and are not out of the woods. Basically they still have to win three of their last five games to make it and no one’s schedule is all that easy. The one thing that has been learned in this race is that just when you think you have it figured out, something else happens that makes you scream what the heck!
For Dallas, San Jose, and Colorado, these where three teams that were in the playoffs last year. The funny thing is Dallas has a chance to finish with more points in the West than last season and still miss the postseason. Last year the bar was set lower because of so many teams over 100 points. This year you have two so far and two on the brink, but four teams were over 110 points. Keep that in mind.
The West still has much to sort out, however. There are too many seeding possibilities to mention in one sitting. Anaheim has just about wrapped up the Pacific, but the Central is far from resolved. Chicago might be the team that catches Nashville ultimately, even without Patrick Kane. That would be some impressive feat if that occurred.
Early next week there may be a division clincher update to go along with the cutoff. In the meantime, things will only get more heated in the West as the final games tick down. Do watch to see how many games Dustin Byfuglien gets suspended for his vicious cross check on J.T. Miller from Tuesday night.
— HockeyNightInCanada (@hockeynight) April 1, 2015
That could go a long way in clearing some things up. It’s all for now.