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Breaking down the race for the West’s final playoff spots

Jan 27, 2012, 8:30 AM EDT

Earlier this week, the NBC Sports Network gang took a look at the Western Conference playoff picture, as you can watch in the following clip:

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Want a more detailed playoff picture? NBC’s standings page provides more in-depth numbers, from games played to full records.

source:  (click to enlarge)

No one’s truly untouchable, but for the sake of this exercise, let’s say that the Vancouver Canucks and every Central Division team not named the Columbus Blue Jackets are safe for now. With that in mind, let’s look at the two most interesting races.

Kings, Sharks battle for Pacific

Much like the Southeast Division race, the top two Pacific teams could get a gift of a top-three seed if they win the division. The difference is that the gap between the San Jose Sharks (60 points in 47 games played) and the Los Angeles Kings (58 points in 50 games played) is larger than the one between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers. Still, one must at least acknowledge the Kings’ chance to make a mini-run at take the Pacific.

Race for the bottom two spots

For the sake of the bigger picture, the Kings should be considered a part of the race for one of the bottom two spots. They’re generally in a good position, although they’ll have to survive on the road with 20 of their last 32 games away from home.

Wild vs. Avalanche

The next group one can notice is the eighth and ninth seeds are the Minnesota Wild (eighth place with 55 points in 49 contests) and Colorado Avalanche (ninth place with 54 points in 51 contests). This week’s Wild win gave them a nice buffer ahead of Colorado and it doesn’t stop there. The Wild play 19 of their last 33 games in Minnesota while the Avalanche only has one extra home game (16 in Colorado, 15 on the road).

Three at 52

The Dallas Stars, Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes take spots 10-12 with 55 points apiece. The 10th place Stars are in a decent position to move up since they’ve only played 48 games and already piled up 25 wins. Sixteen of their final games are at home while 18 are on the road, so it’s not all great news.

Both Calgary and Phoenix reached 52 in 50 games with the Flames in the No. 11 spot because they have an extra victory. Calgary will play 19 games at home and 13 away while the Coyotes play 18 games in Phoenix and 14 on the road, so their dreams are far from dead.

***

Overall, I’d guess that the Sharks have a great shot at the Pacific Division, the Kings should get a lower seed and Minnesota at least has a head start on eighth place. Colorado’s ninth spot might be inflated, the Stars have some games in hand and Phoenix/Calgary have enough home games to make some noise. We haven’t even discussed the Anaheim Ducks.

When it comes to the West, you never really know … unless you’re the Columbus Blue Jackets.

  1. blomfeld - Jan 27, 2012 at 10:29 AM

    I predict the top 5 in the west will finish as follows:

    1) Detroit
    2) Chicago
    3) The Sisters & Company
    4) Los Angeles
    5) San Jose

    ps: anyone who doesn’t agree with this is an idiot !

    • danphipps01 - Jan 27, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      Er. That’s… actually not mathematically possible at this point. If San Jose or L.A. do as well as you’re predicting (somehow), the better of the two would end up in the top three regardless. As they’re both falling short of the ridiculously successful Blues, surprising Predators and typically spectacular ‘Hawks, Wings and Canucks, what’s likely going to play out is San Jose at #3 (the gift of a weak division, as per usual) and L.A. in seventh because they can’t really do any better with all those guys piled on top of them in the standings. They might battle up to sixth, but that’s as far as they’re likely to go.

  2. davebabychreturns - Jan 27, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    The top seven are set – maybe not in that order but none of those teams (barring a rash of injuries) is going to drop out of the playoff race, and none of them are going to be passed by the freaking Avalanche.

    Basically, first seed in the West means a creampuff matchup in the first round – everyone else has a tough opponent right from the get go.

    Much tougher than in the East where it’s really only the 4-5 teams with a tough first round ahead of them.

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