Much like we've been spoiled by a parade of big market U.S. franchises (and Vancouver, that suburb of Seattle) vying for the Stanley Cup each June, we've also been spoiled by having the regular-season playoff races decided in Game 82.
Alas, not this year. The NHL Playoff Death Watch is over, because the postseason lives of the Buffalo Sabres, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche were all claimed on Thursday night. The Top 8 in the Eastern and Western Conferences are set; it's all over but the seeding.
Coming up, the playoff pictures for the East and West, as we shift the focus to playoff seeding. The full NHL standings and schedules can be found on Y! Sports. All playoff percentages are from Sports Club Stats; tragic numbers and other figures via the NHL.
Here's the playoff picture for the Eastern Conference:
|Team (Games Remaining)||Place/Pts/ROW||% Chance of 3rd||% Chance of 7th||% Chance of 8th|
|Florida Panthers (1)||3rd/92/31||89||-||11|
|Ottawa Senators (1)||7th/92/35||-||91||9|
|Washington Capitals (1)||8th/90/37||11||9||80|
The New York Rangers (1), Boston Bruins (2), Pittsburgh Penguins (4), Philadelphia Flyers (5) and New Jersey Devils (6) are all locked into their seeds.
For the second straight game, the Florida Panthers will be looking for one point — gained by them, lost by Washington — to clinch the Southeast Division and home ice in the first round when they skate at home against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The same Hurricanes that saw their playoff hopes dashed on the final day of last season, by the way.
The Senators are at the Devils on Saturday needing one point gained or lost by the Capitals to clinch the No. 7 seed. Should they lose to the Devils and the Capitals beat the Rangers, the Capitals would face the Bruins in Round 1 while the Senators play the Rangers. UNLESS, the Panthers lose to the Hurricanes, in which case the Panthers tumble down to the No. 8 seed.
The Caps need a Panthers loss in regulation and a victory over the Rangers for the Southeast crown and a date with the Devils.
Here's the Western Conference race (via NHL):
The Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes could finish third, seventh or eighth. The Coyotes' game against the St. Louis Blues tonight will bring a bit a clarity here — Phoenix can win its first division title in franchise history by winning tonight and then on Saturday at the Minnesota Wild.
If Phoenix wins out, the winner of the Kings/Sharks game on Saturday will take the No. 7 seed. If Phoenix gains three points with a regulation win, things get really interesting: They'd have 35 non-shootout wins, meaning that they'd win a tie-breaker with the Sharks should they beat LA; but if the Coyotes and Kings end up with 96 points and 35 ROW, then the next tie-breaker is head-to-head points, and that goes to the Coyotes: seven to six.
The Blues, meanwhile, can claim the top spot in the conference if they win out against the Coyotes and Dallas Stars, owning the wins tie-breaker over Vancouver. Sport Club Stats has the Canucks and Blues at around 50/50 for finishing first.
The 4-5-6 mess: The Predators clinch the No. 4 seed with one point against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday or one point lost by the Detroit Red Wings to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Red Wings can clinch fifth with one point against Chicago; but if the Blackhawks win in regulation, they'll snag the No. 5 seed based on head-to-head points.
Aaaaannnd exhale …
If The Playoffs Started Today:
NY Rangers (1) vs. Washington (8)
Boston (2) vs. Ottawa (7)
Florida (3) vs. New Jersey (6)
Pittsburgh (4) vs. Philadelphia (5)
Vancouver (1) vs. Phoenix (8)
St. Louis (2) vs. San Jose (7)
Los Angeles (3) vs. Chicago (6)
Nashville (4) vs. Detroit (5)