NHL Death Watch: Predators clinch playoff berth; Sharks in trouble with loss to Coyotes

Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.

Congratulations are in order for the Nashville Predators, who weren't in action Thursday, but still managed to clinch a playoff berth. From the Tennesseean:

The Nashville Predators reached the Western Conference playoffs on Wednesday without touching the ice.

Anaheim's 3-1 defeat of San Jose allowed Nashville to clinch its seventh playoff berth in the last eight seasons. The Predators missed the postseason in 2009.

Where the Predators wind up seeding remains up in the air, however. They have a 50% chance of finishing 5th, but there's still a 36% chance that they leapfrog the Detroit Red Wings and open the postseason on home ice.

In other Central news, the St. Louis Blues' shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks forces them to wait another day to clinch top spot in their division. Mind you, the Blues hold a comfy, 9-point lead on the Red Wings, so I suspect they'll get it done.

But the real news is that the San Jose Sharks lost their second straight game, and now find themselves with less than a 50% chance of making the postseason.

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. A team is eliminated from play-offs when their "Tragic Number" hits 0.

Here's the playoff picture for the Eastern Conference bubble:

Team (Games Remaining) Place/Pts/ROW Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
Florida Panthers (5) 3rd/90/31 -- 97.8 1 3
New Jersey Devils (4) 6th/94/32 -- 100 7 0
Ottawa Senators (5) 7th/88/34 -- 93.1 68 18
Buffalo Sabres (5) 8th/86/31 -- 53.9 13 41
Washington Capitals (4) 9th/86/36 9 55.1 11 38
Winnipeg Jets (5) 10th/78/31 3 0.0 0 0
Tampa Bay Lightning (7) 11th/77/32 2 0.0 0 0
Carolina Hurricanes (5) 12th/77/31 2 0.0 0 0
New York Islanders (5)
13th/77/26 2 0.0 0 0

The Jets, Lightning, Hurricanes and Islanders may not be mathematically eliminated, but according to Sportsclubstats, they have zero chance of making the playoffs whatsoever.

Still, that didn't stop the Islanders from taking both games in a home and home to keep their slim chances alive and torpedo the Penguins' chances of taking over top spot in the Conference. The New York Rangers' now have a 96% chance of winning the East.

At the bottom of the playoff picture, there are effectively three teams battling for two spots and, with the Capitals' shootout win on Thursday, they increased their chances of making the postseason by 18.2%.

They also put a great deal of pressure on the Sabres, who host Pittsburgh Friday and could see a 30% swing in the probability of their playoff berth with a loss. If the game versus the Capitals was big, the Sabres' tilt with the Penguins is just as big.

Here's the Western Conference race:

Team (Games Remaining) Place/ Pts/ROW Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
Dallas Stars (5) 3rd/89/35 -- 82.5 26 21
Chicago Blackhawks (4) 6th/95/37 -- 100 0 0
Phoenix Coyotes (4) 7th/89/32 -- 83.6 31 32
Los Angeles Kings (5) 8th/88/32 -- 81.1 27 20
San Jose Sharks (4) 9th/88/31 9 44.9 14 21
Colorado Avalanche (3) 10th/86/31 5 3.2 0 3
Calgary Flames (4) 11th/85/32 6 4.6 1 4

The Nashville Predators disappear from our table after officially clinching their playoff berth with the San Jose Sharks' loss to the Coyotes.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes' chances of reaching the postseason increase by 19.3%.  They now have an 83.6% chance.

And the Sharks are in trouble. The likelihood that they find themselves in the postseason is now below 50%. A loss to the Stars on Saturday could spell the end for them. They know it, too. Ryane Clowe said it best, from the Mercury News:

"I still think we can get some more juice from some people," Clowe said. "We've just got to bear down. Individually, you have to realize what's on the line. Do you want to play or do you want to go home? You have to find it within yourself. Whatever your role is on this team, you've got to do it now.

"If you've got 14 or 15 guys going this time of year, you're not going to win, especially against Dallas and L.A. You need everyone. We have to have all four lines rolling, and we need the tenacity. We can get the grit up a bit."

Finally, for those of you concerned that the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks might meet in the Western Conference quarterfinals for the second straight year, it became a near-mathematical impossibility with Chicago's shootout win over the Blues. According to Sportsclubstats, the teams have a 0.3% chance of meeting, as the Blackhawks now have next to no chance probability of finishing any lower than 6th, and the Canucks have the same chance of finishing below 2nd.