Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.
The Eastern Conference field is set for the Stanley Cup playoffs, as we toll the bell for both the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres after the Montreal Canadiens earned a point and the New York Rangers earned a win last night.
The Sabres obviously have some tweaking to do, even if the majority of the roster is signed through next season. Panthers fans will no doubt play the blame game a little here at the end; especially when it comes to the decision not to trade the soon-to-be-departed (we assume) Jay Bouwmeester at the deadline. Sure, it's all bitter hindsight; but are we not sports fans? Do we not have a divine right to viciously reverse course on an opinion when things don't work out?
While Florida fans deal with "what if," we turn to what's probable: a first-round battle between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens. According to Sports Club Stats, the Rangers have a 63-percent chance of taking the No. 7 seed and facing the Washington Capitals. The Habs, meanwhile, have a 63-percent chance of placing eighth and meeting the Bruins.
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(Lucic, for the record, admitted to losing his temper in the game last night. We're unabashed fans of Looch here, but watch it again; if this was Avery or Bertuzzi or Pronger or any other player with less puckhead street cred, there'd be outrage about immediate suspensions. Komisarek wasn't hurt, but that looked like a finishing move from the WWE.)
The following Western Conference playoff picture is painted by the invaluable resources from Sports Club Stats, which offers percentage probabilities for teams, and NHL Playoff Race, which provides the "tragic numbers" (the amount of points gained by the eight seed and/or lost by a team chasing it) for teams.
For the West:
% Chance of 7th
% Chance of 8th
(Note that the official standings still give the Blues the No. 8 seed because of their game in-hand.)
Kudos to the Predators for picking themselves up off the ground and skating out of the Joe with a remarkable comeback win over the Detroit Red Wings in the shootout, 4-3. Fans run hot and cold about the Predators earning a playoff spot over either the Ducks or Blues, but efforts like that are inspiring.
Yet as you can see, the chances for the Preds to make the cut are improved but still rather long odds. From The Tennessean:
The Blues remain in control of their playoff fate. The Predators and Blues each have 88 points, but St. Louis holds the tiebreaker as of now.
The Preds' "tragic number" remains at three - meaning any combination of points gained by St. Louis or squandered by Nashville totaling three - will leave the Predators behind the Blues in the final Western Conference standings.
Nashville closes out the regular season tonight at Minnesota. St. Louis plays tonight against Columbus and Sunday at Colorado. The Predators could in theory still catch Anaheim as well, but any combination of points gained by Anaheim or squandered by Nashville totaling two would leave the Predators behind the Ducks in the final standings.
The Wild, meanwhile, are looking at their game against Nashville tonight as something even greater than a must-win -- it's a must-win-in-regulation. From Michael Russo of the Star Tribune:
If Friday's game goes to overtime, it means Nashville gets a point - or 89 points. The Preds already have 40 wins, meaning even if the Wild won its final two games with Friday being in overtime, it would finish with 40 wins.
Then it would go head-to-head. If the Wild wins in overtime, the Wild would be 2-2 vs. Nashville for four out of eight points. However, Nashville would be 2-1-1 against the Wild for five out of eight points, and thus would win the tiebreaker.
What does this mean? If the game's tied with say a minute left in regulation Friday night, coach Jacques Lemaire might have to consider pulling the goalie for an extra attacker to keep it from going to overtime.
What a finish. Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference:
% Chance of 7th
% Chance of 8th
New York Rangers
Obviously, neither of these teams is dying until the first round of the playoffs. But it's worth taking a gander at their probabilities, because the Eastern Conference postseason could be dramatically affected by their finish.
The Rangers have the No. 7 seed and finish at the Philadelphia Flyers. The Canadiens finish at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins. According to Newsday, the Rangers need to finish ahead in wins or points for the seventh seed.
There's a notion here in Washington that the either team is a manageable opponent, and I disagree. The Canadiens are, without question, the easier draw. The Rangers under Tortorella in the postseason could be a pain in the ass for the Capitals, both literally and figuratively. One prime example: The Capitals thrive on the power play; the Rangers have the best kill in the NHL.
As for the middle of the pack, the Flyers have a 63-percent chance of placing fourth and earning valuable home ice. The Carolina Hurricanes have a 47-percent chance of placing fifth, while the Penguins have a 33-percent chance of fifth and a 52-percent chance of beating the Devils in the first round.