As we near the start of the NHL Playoffs, April 11, I, and possibly other bloggers, will provide continuing coverage of the playoffs. Today, the playoff picture will be discussed. Later this week, when the seedings are finalized matchup previews will be provided. And lastly, once the playoffs begin, updates and analysis will be provided until Lord Stanley's Cup is raised.
As of today, all sixteen teams in the playoff picture have clinched. Even in a loss to their division rivals, the Washington Capitals, the Florida Predators were able to clinch a playoff berth, as did the Capitals. It had been ten years since the last time the Panthers had played in the playoffs. Only six franchises from the four major United States Sports (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) have gone longer. The list includes the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB), the Buffalo Bills (NFL), and the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, and Toronto Blue Jays (all from the MLB).
Even though the sixteen teams clinched playoff berths, only five teams have clinched a seed. From the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers have clinched the Atlantic Division and the number one seed in the conference with 109 points. However, they have not clinched home ice throughout the playoffs, since they are tied with the Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference) in points, and the St. Louis Blues (Western Conference) can still finish with 111 points. The Boston Bruins have clinched the Northeast Division and the number two seed in the East with 100 points. The four, five and six seeds all come from the Atlantic Division, one of the strongest divisions in hockey. At four is the Pittsburgh Penguins with 106 points. Five is the Philadelphia Flyers with 103 points. Lastly, New Jersey is sixth with 100 points.
So what does that leave from the Eastern Conference? The three, seven and eight seeds. As previously mentioned, Florida (92 points) failed to win against division foe, Washington, last night. They would have clinched the number three seed and the Southeast Division with a win. Washington sits in the eighth seed right now with 90 points. Florida can still clinch the three seed and division with a win/overtime loss against the Carolina Hurricanes or a Washington loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday. Washington can still clinch the division with a win against New York and a Florida regulation loss to Carolina. Ottawa is currently the seventh seed. If Washington wins in New York, Florida wins against Carolina or suffers an overtime loss, and Ottawa loses their game in New Jersey, they will be the eighth seed. If they get at least one point, they will automatically be the seventh seed, regardless of what else happens.
The West is much more undecided. Not one team has clinched a seed. Currently sitting in first place for the conference are the Vancouver Canucks with 109 Points. They can clinch the number one seed in the playoffs (East and West conferences) with a Win and a Rangers loss. The tiebreaker goes to the Rangers who have 47 regulation + overtime wins; The Canucks have 42. The Canucks can clinch first place in the West with a Win against the Oilers. They can also clinch if the St. Louis Blues (107 points) lose against the Dallas Stars. The Blues can clinch first seed in the West, second overall seed. with a win and a Vancouver loss, since they would have more regulation + overtime wins while being tied in points (109). The Blues cannot be seeded lower than number two in the West. Phoenix currently sits third with 95 points. They can clinch the Pacific division with a win/overtime loss against the Minnesota Wild or if the Los Angeles Kings (94 Points) lose in regulation to the San Jose Sharks. Phoenix will forfeit the division and the three seed to Los Angeles in any other scenario. Seeded 4th, 5th, and 6th are the Nashville Predators (102 Points), Detroit Red Wings, (101 Points), and the Chicago Blackhawks (99 points). Nashville clinches the fourth seed with a win against the Colorado Avalanche with a win/overtime loss and if the Red Wings lose in Regulation to the Blackhawks. If the Blackhawks win in regulation against the Red Wings, both teams will have 101 points, but Chicago will have the tiebreaker placing them fifth. If the Blackhawks lose, they will clinch the sixth seed. In seventh is the Kings. As previously discussed, they clinch the seventh seed with a win and a Phoenix loss. They can also clinch with an overtime loss and a Phoenix regulation loss. Lastly, in eighth place is the San Jose Sharks with 94 points as well. Due to the tie-breaker, they cannot win the division, so the highest seed they can get to is the seventh seed. If they lost as well as the Kings and Coyotes, the three, seven and eight seeds will remain unchanged. Los Angeles currently has the tie-breaker over San Jose. There are too many possibilities to run through due to the complexity of the situation, so I will only provide a vague backdrop of the situation. If the Sharks and Kings are tied in points, Kings have the tiebreaker. If the Kings take the division and the Coyotes and Sharks are tied in points, Coyotes have the tiebreaker. It is still possible for the Sharks to finish in 7th if they win, the Kings take the division and the Coyotes suffer an overtime loss.
This should all make for a great end to the regular season...