The Playoff Chase – February 8 2015

Most of the teams in the Western Conference playoff picture have about 30 (or so) games remaining. There’s plenty of time for things to go right or wrong for everybody.

Here’s a look at how the race shapes up heading into the coming week.

SAN JOSE (63 POINTS)

Record: 28-19-7 in 54 games; second place in Pacific Division

  • Monday vs. Calgary
  • Wednesday vs. Washington
  • Friday at Arizona

Outlook: The Sharks open the week with a pair of toughies – a crucial divisional game with the Flames and then a visit from Alex Ovechkin’s crew. Then they face Arizona, which could be a trip-up game. They’ll win at least a game here, but a sweep is possible as well. The Flames will have a game in hand on the Jets when the week is over.

    WINNIPEG (62 POINTS)

    Record: 26-18-10 in 54 games; first wild-card position in the West

    • Sunday vs. Colorado
    • Tuesday vs. Minnesota
    • Thursday at Nashville
    • Saturday at Detroit

    Outlook: The Jets are busy this week, with three games against divisional opponents and then a trip to the Motor City. The games later in the week are really tough, so hopefully the Jets can get their game going early-on against the Avalanche and Wild. The Flames will have two games in hand on the Jets when the week is over.

      VANCOUVER (61 POINTS)

      Record: 29-19-3 in 51 games; third place in Pacific Division

      • Monday at Minnesota
      • Wednesday at Chicago
      • Friday vs. Boston
      • Saturday at Calgary

      Outlook: The Canucks can attempt to take advantage of their games in hand on the Flames this week. However, they face the white-hot Wild, two recent Stanley Cup champions, and the Flames, who are breathing down their necks. They’ll still have a game in hand on Calgary by week’s end, but they have a tough week ahead of them.

        CALGARY (61 POINTS)

        Record: 29-21-3 in 53 games; second wild-card position in the West (tied for third place in Pacific but Vancouver has 2 games in hand, two points back of second place in Pacific with a game in hand, one point back of first wild-card position with a game in hand)

        • Monday at San Jose
        • Thursday at Los Angeles
        • Saturday vs. Vancouver

        Outlook: The Flames remain masters of their own destiny right now. They have three games this week against three teams they’re trying to (a) chase down (in San Jose and Vancouver) or (b) create some distance from (L.A.). They’ll need to win two of three to maintain their breathing room.

        MINNESOTA (56 POINTS)

        Record: 25-20-6 in 51 games; five points back of the second wild-card spot with two games in hand

        • Monday vs. Vancouver
        • Tuesday at Winnipeg
        • Thursday vs. Florida
        • Saturday vs. Carolina

        Outlook: Let’s get this out of the way – the Wild were a perfectly functional team that was dragged down by awful goaltending. The big question is this: is Devan Dubnyk an elite NHL goalie? Probably not. So how long will his numbers continue to be elite? And how brutal will the course correction be? At some point the Wild will have an awful, awful week. It’s just a matter of when. (They’ll have a game in hand on Calgary when the week is done.)

          LOS ANGELES (56 POINTS)

          Record: 22-18-12 in 52 games; five points back of the second wild-card spot with one game in hand (and/or five back of third in the Pacific)

          • Monday at Columbus
          • Thursday vs. Calgary
          • Saturday vs. Washington

          Outlook: Washington’s a tough out, Columbus is an easy out, and Calgary’s somewhere in the middle. The Kings have the benefit of home ice advantage against the Flames and experience in having the Flames come back against ’em. Thursday will be a huge game for both teams’ playoff hopes.

            COLORADO (55 POINTS)

            Record: 22-20-11 in 53 games; six points back of the second wild-card spot

            • Sunday at Winnipeg
            • Thursday vs. NY Rangers
            • Saturday vs. Dallas

            Outlook: The Avalanche need to start reeling in the pack. They’re six points back and don’t have games in hand on Calgary – and won’t by the end of the week, either. And they face a Jets team tonight that is trying to work their kinks out before the playoffs, a tough Rangers team and a Dallas team that’s also trying to reel the pack in. The Avalanche have their hands full.

              DALLAS (54 POINTS)

              Record: 23-21-8 in 52 games; seven points back of the second wild-card spot with one game in hand

              • Sunday at NY Rangers
              • Tuesday at Boston
              • Friday vs. Florida
              • Saturday at Colorado

              Outlook: As with many other Western teams, the Stars have a week split between tough teams from the East and teams they’re fighting with for playoff spots in the West. And like the Avalanche, the Stars really need to start getting closer to the pack. They have a tough week ahead of them on that front. Again.

                • beloch

                  Ryan Pike wrote:

                  The big question is this: is Devan Dubnyk an elite NHL goalie? Probably not. So how long will his numbers continue to be elite? And how brutal will the course correction be?

                  Over three seasons from 2010/2011 to 2012/2013, Dubnyk played 120 games with an average sv% of 0.917, which is just above league average. That’s a remarkable stretch of consistency given how terrible the Oiler teams playing in front of him were. In 2013/2014 things fell off the rails for Dubnyk. He was clearly struggling mentally but, in typical Oiler fashion, there was no help to be found from his team. They gave up on him and traded him for a fourth liner.

                  As with many other ex-Oilers, Dubnyk seems to have righted his mental ship and is playing well again. With the Wild he has some support in the form of an aging veteran who is just barely past regular starting duties (Backstrom) and a rookie (Kuemper) who might be capable of delivering some league average performances. If Dubnyk starts to struggle the Wild aren’t going to throw him to the wolves night after night as the Oilers did in 2013/2014 (and are currently doing to Scrivens and Fasth). Dubnyk has help if he needs it.

                  Dubnyk is clearly capable of delivering league average (or slightly above) goal-tending on a consistent basis for a sustained period of time. He did it with the Oilers. He’s playing well now, has support from his team, and appears to be in a good mental state. He’s certainly not going to sustain a 0.948 sv% for long, but my money says he’s not going to correct to below league average any time soon.

                  If the Wild win their two games in hand on the Flames, they’d be just 1 point behind. No team below the Flames in the Conference are currently as hot as the Wild are. They’re the biggest threat from behind the Flames face at present. If the Flames lose too many games down the stretch they’ll likely have to hope the Jets, Sharks, or Canucks tank out of the playoff picture.

                • Burnward

                  If teams like Jets/Canucks/Sharks were going to tank out of the playoffs, they should be doing it now and falling hard and fast, rather than waiting for a 14th place finish, which only increases there odds 1/2 percent.

                  Looking at the odds for this year’s changes to the draft lottery makes you wonder why they just didn’t go for drafting the first 3 picks this year.

                  This year’s draft lottery heavily favours tankers,and holds little opportunity for the 10 to 14 spot teams.

                • The Last Big Bear

                  There’s an awful lot of “4 point games” remaining in the west.

                  Heck, this week alone there are 7 of them. These games will pretty much entirely dictate the playoff picture moving forward.

                  The Flames destiny is entirely in their own hands. They just have to win the head-to-head games against the other bubble teams. Unfortunately, the same is true for all the bubble teams.

                  So like I’ve been doing all year, I’m just going to cheer and enjoy the ride. This season was a tremendous success regardless of the record, with player development exceeding all reasonable expectations. Any games they win is just gravy, and being in the playoff hunt is a beautiful luxury.

                  Go Flames Go.

                • Burnward

                  By the end of the week the Flames will have 2 games in hand over the Jets. Their schedule is not easy but neither is the Flames. Take care of our own games and we should end up OK!

                • Derzie

                  Sport Club Stats website (an easy Google) is great for watching the playoff races. Boils each nights results into a change in probability of the Flames making the playoff. Haven’t used the site since we were last in the hunt but glad it is still there.

                • MonsterPod

                  The trade deadline is going to make things interesting. The Kings will add a defenseman and Winnipeg will try to replace the loss of Kane. SJ and Van will makes moves to improve. Maybe Minny as well.

                  If the Flames were out of it, I would say sell high on Wideman and try to get something for GlenX. But if they’re in, there may be a minor move to improve the 5/6 D. We’ll see.

                  Man, just imagine how sweet we would sit if we had just won two games somewhere in that eight game skid… Grrrrrrrr