There are a lot of ways to describe the Western Conference playoff picture heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. A lot of those involve some questionable language. To put things simply we’ll call it “a mess” of sorts. There are six teams at the top of the standings who are separated by five points. With most teams having anywhere from 4-6 games remaining, that means first place in both division and overall in the conference are up for grabs. Here we’ll break down the schedule for all remaining competing teams.
NHL playoff picture: Western Conference
We’ll start in the Central division and work our way down. The Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars are all within one point. Minnesota has 97 and the other two teams are at 96. This division may come down to the wire and down to tiebreakers depending on the schedule. Colorado has a game in hand entering play Monday. Let’s take a look.
Wild: vs. VGK, @ PIT, vs. STL, @ CHI, vs. WPG, @ NSH
Avalanche: @ SJS, @ SJS, @ LAK, @ ANA, vs. EDM, vs. WPG, @ NSH
Stars: vs. NSH, vs. PHI, vs. VGK, @ DET, @ STL, vs. STL
The Avs have the clear advantage to win the division with one more game remaining and their schedule. Colorado has the California swing and three of those games should be very easy to win. The remaining games are tough against playoff contenders in the Oilers, Kings and Jets. The Preds should be eliminated by the time the two teams play. The Stars are also in a decent spot with games against Philly, Detroit and St. Louis twice. If we had to predict how this shakes out, let’s go Avalanche, Stars, Wild.
And now the Pacific division. The Golden Knights, Kings and Oilers occupy the top-3 spots in the division and that’s how it’ll stay. The Seattle Kraken should get in but won’t catch any of the top-3 and will need to fight a bit to maintain.
Golden Knights: @ MIN, @ NSH, vs. LAK, @ DAL, vs. SEA, @ SEA
Kings: vs. EDM, @ VGK, vs. COL, vs. VAN, @ ANA
Oilers: @ LAK, @ ANA, @ SJS, @ COL, vs. SJS
Vegas has a game in hand but arguably the toughest remaining schedule. The Golden Knights face pretty much all teams in the playoff picture and Nashville may not be technically eliminated by that game. The Kings have it tough against the Oilers and Knights, both games which will feel like playoff games. Edmonton has a few tough outs against L.A. and Colorado, but also three cupcakes against the Sharks twice and Ducks. If Edmonton can win out, they’d be in good position to steal the division. Vegas could benefit from the Kraken being locked into the first Wild Card but that seems unlikely now.
Speaking of Wild Card, let’s look at that really fast. There are four teams left there: the Kraken, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames and Predators. Seattle’s lead for the top WC spot is down to one point over Winnipeg while the Jets are ahead by two on the Flames and five on the Preds. Nashville is unlikely to get in but have an outside shot.
Kraken: vs. ARI, @ VAN, vs. ARI, vs. CHI, @ ARI, @ VGK, vs. VGK
Jets: vs. CGY, vs. NSH, vs. SJS, @ MIN, @ COL
Flames: vs. CHI, @ WPG, @ VAN, vs. NSH, vs. SJS
Predators: @ DAL, vs. VGK, vs. CAR, @ WPG, @ CGY, vs. MIN, vs. COL
Seattle and Nashville each have seven games remaining. The Kraken’s schedule is pretty soft against the Coyotes three times, Canucks and Blackhawks. Nashville gets no favors. That final seven games are brutal against all playoff contenders. Calgary is hot and has some easy games mixed in plus a big game against the Jets. That could decide who gets one of those WC spots. Winnipeg has it tougher so we’ll go with the Kraken and Flames to get in.