The Playoff Chase – March 16 2015

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We’re getting into the dwindling days of the 2014-15 season, as most teams still involved in the Western Conference playoff bubble have between 11 and 13 games remaining on the docket.

Considering magic numbers are around that level, as well, we’re hitting the nitty gritty here.

Here’s a quick glance at where we sit to start this week.

MINNESOTA

83 points in 69 games; first wild-card; 7-3-0 in last ten
Magic number (versus Winnipeg): 12

The Wild visit Nashville on Tuesday, host St. Louis on Thursday and Washington on Saturday. They continue to chug along on the strength of Devan Dubnyk’s white-hot goaltending. But that’s a tough string of games against teams rounding into playoff form.

VANCOUVER

82 points in 68 games; second in Pacific; 6-3-1 in last ten
Magic number (versus Los Angeles): 13

The Canucks lost their starting netminder, but are soldiering on anyway. They have a pretty decent week ahead of them: they host Philadelphia on Tuesday, Columbus on Thursday and visit Los Angeles on Saturday.

CALGARY

81 points in 69 games; third in Pacific; 6-3-1 in last ten
Magic number (versus Los Angeles): 13.5

Calgary lost their best player a couple weeks ago and went on a long, long road trip. They kept winning anyway. They host St. Louis on Tuesday, Philadelphia on Thursday and Columbus on Saturday.

WINNIPEG

80 points in 69 games; second wild-card, 3 back of Wild; 4-4-2 in last 10
Magic number (versus Los Angeles): 14

Like the Flames and Canucks, Winnipeg has lost key players. Unlike the Flames and Canucks, the Jets have hit a bit of tough times in games. Their goaltending hasn’t helped, either. They have a tough week: hosting San Jose on Tuesday, St. Louis on Thursday and Washington on Saturday. They need wins desperately, because they’re being chased by the Kings and Sharks.

LOS ANGELES

79 points in 68 games; 1 back of Jets (1 game in hand), 2 back of Flames (1 game in hand); 5-4-1 in last ten
Magic number (versus Winnipeg): 14 (14.5 versus Calgary)

The Kings are finding ways to get points, including overtime and late-game comebacks. As a result, they’re reeling in the wild-card teams. They have a pretty balanced week: they host Arizona on Monday, visit Anaheim on Wednesday, host Vancouver on Saturday.

SAN JOSE

76 points in 69 games; 4 back of Jets, 5 back of Flames; 5-5-0 in last ten
Magic number (versus Winnipeg): 15.5 (16 versus Calgary)

The Sharks have had some trouble with consistency in the last little bit. Oh, and chemistry, as they’ve added a couple new players post-deadline. Oh, and distractions, as their former captain and their general manager aren’t getting along. Amidst all this, they’re sliding down the standings, too. They have a tough week, too, with a road trip that sees them face a desperate Winnipeg on Tuesday, a floundering Toronto on Thursday and the sharp Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

COLORADO

75 points in 69 games; 5 back of Jets; 7-3-0 in last ten
Magic number (versus Winnipeg): 16 (16.5 versus Calgary)

The Avalanche are off until Thursday, which is a shame because they finally seem to have some momentum. Once well out of the race, they’ve managed to gain ground on just about everybody, but they’re still a ways back and cannot afford a misstep. They play in Arizona on Thursday and Anaheim on Friday, in a tough back-to-back.

DALLAS

74 points in 70 games; 6 back of Jets; 5-4-1 in last ten
Magic number (versus Winnipeg): 16.5 (17 versus Calgary)

The Stars may be completely done by the end of this week. They lost Tyler Seguin and have been drifting down the standings a bit. They have a pair of tough games this week, at home against Pittsburgh on Thursday and Chicago on Saturday. They need wins, and they need everybody above them to forget how to play the game of ice hockey.

  • everton fc

    Since the college hockey season is coming to an end are the flame pursuing any of the free agents available. Example Casey Bailey, Greyson Downing who were at the flames training camp. Kenny Morrison and Mike Reilly both defenceman.

  • mattyc

    If this playoff race hasn’t been ample evidence of the importance (and seemingly randomness) of quality goaltending, I don’t know what is.

    At this point I think the Flames need to hope that the Jets continue to have bad ‘tending, and the Flames’ goaltending doesn’t have too many more games like Colorado.

    • RedMan

      that’s about right – we need goaltending to be on par with the rest of the season – any regression and it’s game over.

      have to admit, it’s been pretty exciting!

    • Derzie

      The same sentence works when substituting the word ‘goaltending’ with ‘defense’ or ‘scoring’. Nothing can be a weakness when trying to reach and win the playoffs.

      • mattyc

        eh, I disagree. I think goaltending covers up a lot of warts. Probably the main reason why poor possession teams still make the playoffs. Look at Montreal.

        Minny is an opposite example. Strong offense and defence, but completely undermined by crappy goaltending until Dubnyk came in. Same with Winnipeg; bad goaltending just neuters otherwise good teams

  • xploD

    Little off topic but I was just looking up stats on our prospects and I was looking at Hunter Smiths increase in production last year he had 40 points this year he has 49 points in 7 less games and thought oh well that’s decent points. He’s progressing alright. …then I looked at Bennett’s points this year…and not to compare the skill level or anything but Bennett has 21 points in 9 games!? If he kept up that pace he would be outscoring HS in somewhere around 20 games. Bennett is going to be one hell of a 1st line center. Unbelievable compete and pursuit. Crazy amounts of skill even at high speeds and creative to boot.

    The times of having 2 lines that can absolutely dominate are soon to be back!

    • RKD

      Bennett is looking great.

      Hunter Smith is 2 years past his initial draft date (he was drafted in his +1 year) and is like 50 pounds heavier than everyone else on the ice, and he’s still well below 1ppg. A guy that size, that age, if he’s even remotely skilled should be above 1ppg.

      Hunter Smith doesn’t appear to have the offense to play 4th line in the NHL, which was also true when he was drafted. I’m not sure he’s progressed at all.

      • The other issue with Smith is he’s 5th on his own team in scoring. A 17 year-old defender has more points than he does in the same amount of games. His NHLe this year is a measly 21.

        You can’t write off any prospect at 19 years old, but…

          • Burnward

            I dunno. I’ve seen him play once. I can’t really give an educated opinion either way.

            Just pointing out that increasing goal scoring by 60% and his point scoring by a third or so isn’t exactly a negative in my mind.

          • Parallex

            …and then you can remember Greg Nemisz and realize how looking at a guy on a stacked team’s points in isolation can trick you into thinking they’re better then they actually are.

            With his age, size, and quality of teammate Smith should actually have better numbers if he’s the driver of the bus and not a passanger.

          • Parallex

            Being a passanger isn’t a good thing.

            If you can’t even drive the bus against competition that’s younger, less experienced and significantly smaller I think it’s far less likely you’ll be able to compete against older, better, more experienced, relatively bigger pro’s (Again see: Nemisz, Greg).

          • piscera.infada

            Completely agree. I generally feel that when you draft a player who’s main weakness is skating, you’re in big-time trouble from the outset.

            Frankly, it’s wasn’t a pragmatic pick, however I’m not ready to cry foul quite yet on Treliving’s “draft record”, because it was one year, and–by all accounts going into the draft–it was perceived as a weak draft outside of the top-5 (or so) picks.

            I think we got a hit on Bennett, Hickey really intrigues me (although he’s a ways away), and McDonald could be something (although I agree with the arguments against picking him that high).

            If Hunter Smith were to truly have the impact at his current level of play that you hope for, you’d be looking for a production increase more along the lines of Austin Carroll (1.13 ppg from 0.81 ppg).

            All of this aside though, I do firmly believe that sometimes when drafting (in year-over-year sense), you have to take a few chances. Granted, if “a chance” becomes several “poor-bets” then yes, be very concerned. I personally haven’t seen it of this regime yet. I mean, even Feaster Jankowski’d and Kanzig’d.

  • RKD

    Unless the Flames go on a losing streak, I think they will be going to the playoffs. They are winning without Gio, they beat top teams and the teams they need to beat below them. If they don’t beat the Blues I still think they win the games against the Flyers and Blue Jackets.