The Phoenix Coyotes have still yet to clinch a berth in the playoffs in the insanely tight Western Conference. With the Stars regulation win last night over the Avs, there are still five teams competing for the final four spots heading into the final weekend. Lots of home and home match-ups ahead and the Coyotes can control their own fate somewhat (a single point guarantees them a spot in the postseason and sweeping the games with San Jose guarantees that they will finish at least 6th in the conference).
As a primer, the tie break system in the NHL for this year is as follows if teams are tied in points: (1) Regulation/OT wins; (2) points earned in head-to-head games; and (3) goal differential. So in addition to the general information I've been giving in past weeks, I'll highlight how the Coyotes fare in each of those categories as well...at least for the teams from 4-9 since the top 3 seeds have locked in that they will win their conference although Detroit and San Jose may still flip-flop between 2 and 3.
Vancouver Canucks - 81 G, 53-19-9, 115 Points
Playoff Odds: IN (all odds courtesy of Sports Club Stats)
Weekend Schedule: Saturday @ Calgary
Best Possible Outcome: It's a shame that this game really means nothing with Calgary having been eliminated from contention.
San Jose Sharks - 80 G, 47-24-9, 103 Points
Playoff Odds: IN
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Phoenix; Saturday vs. Phoenix
Best Possible Outcome: In the realm of ridiculousness, the Coyotes recent winless streak against San Jose ranks high among it. The Coyotes have not taken a single point from the Sharks in their four previous meetings this year and will need at least 1 over the final two games to not require some assistance from Dallas (something the Stars don't seem to want to provide). It would be nice to just get it over with tonight in front of a raucous Jobing.com crowd, particularly with the way Anaheim blitzkrieged the Sharks on Wednesday night.
Detroit Red Wings - 80 G, 46-24-10, 102 Points
Playoff Odds: IN
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs. Chicago; Sunday @ Chicago
Best Possible Outcome: And the reason the Sharks won't just roll over is that Detroit is right on their heels for the #2 seed in the West. The Red Wings have two tough games coming up against a Chicago team looking to clinch their own playoff berth so those should be lively affairs. As things stand right now, the Coyotes would get a rematch first-round series with the Red Wings.
Los Angeles Kings - 80 G, 46-28-6, 98 Points, 36 Regulation/OT wins (ROW); Coyotes win head-to-head 7-6
Playoff Odds: IN
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Anaheim; Saturday vs. Anaheim
Best Possible Outcome: A split of this series gives the Coyotes the best possible outcome to potentially clinch the 4 seed, I think. It would require the Coyotes to take 3 of 4 points from San Jose, but you have to have faith that they are going to come out strong in these final two games and get the job done, yes?
Nashville Predators - 80 G, 43-26-11, 97 Points, 37 ROW; series split 4 points each; +24 goal differential
Playoff Odds: 98.5%
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs. Columbus; Saturday @ St. Louis
Best Possible Outcome: Unless the Coyotes plan on really demolishing the Sharks this weekend and Nashville really folds (at which point this doesn't matter because the Coyotes would have more points), Nashville will take the tie breaker with Phoenix. Therefore, the Coyotes need Columbus and St. Louis to hold Nashville where they are and let the Coyotes slip ahead of them to get in that 4-5 match-up.
Phoenix Coyotes - 80 G, 42-25-13, 97 Points, 37 ROW; +6 goal differential
Playoff Odds: 97.6%
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs. San Jose; Saturday @ San Jose
Best Possible Outcome: It is fairly remarkable how the Coyotes have gone 6-2-2 over their last ten games and seemingly lost ground in the Western Conference, particularly over the last week where they only lost a single game in a shootout. That's just life in the Western Conference this year. Coyotes are in good shape, but need to just get some points this weekend to secure the best possible seeding and gain some confidence heading into the playoffs.
Anaheim Ducks - 80 G, 45-30-5, 95 Points, 41 ROW
Playoff Odds: 91.3%
Weekend Schedule: Friday vs. Los Angeles; Saturday @ Los Angeles
Best Possible Outcome: No need to look further than the first tie breaker with Anaheim to see that the Coyotes won't be able to match that number. Therefore, it is imperative to stay in front of Anaheim and if they don't get a win or 2 OT losses, the Coyotes also will clinch a playoff spot that way.
Chicago Blackhawks - 80 G, 43-28-9, 95 Points, 37 ROW; series split 5 points each; +32 goal differential
Playoff Odds: 82.1%
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Detroit; Sunday vs. Detroit
Best Possible Outcome: Another team that will win the tiebreaker against the Coyotes, so it's imperative we stay ahead of Chicago in points. Chicago has a tough two games, and as with Anaheim, if they fail to get at least 2 points in those games, the Coyotes will clinch a playoff berth.
Dallas Stars - 80 G, 41-28-11, 93 Points, 36 ROW; Coyotes win head-to-head 8-6
Playoff Odds: 30.5%
Weekend Schedule: Friday @ Colorado; Sunday @ Minnesota
Best Possible Outcome: Talk about a team that won't go away...the Stars are playing like they have nothing to lose and they don't. They need to keep accumulating points to possibly catch Chicago or Anaheim and in so doing, they are putting significant pressure on the Coyotes as well to get the job done themselves. If the Stars are going to win out, they need to win both games in regulation or OT to pass the Coyotes (they will have more regulation or OT wins if the Coyotes drop both against San Jose). However, Coyotes make it all a moot point by gaining a point tonight.
It truly is the end of the regular season with the playoffs ready to get going next week. My playoff tickets just arrived in the mail and hopefully after tonight's action I'll just have to wonder which visiting team's fans I will be forced to heckle.