The playoff picture in the western conference is taking shape. Firmly in first place, Vancouver clinched a playoff spot and won the division two weeks ago. The Canucks are having a phenomenal season. A franchise first fifty wins and the President's trophy in sight. Detroit and San Jose are battling for the second and third spot. The final spot for home ice advantage in the first round is still up for grabs. Five teams are in the race for this position. If the playoffs started today, Phoenix would be the final team with home ice advantage in the first round. Listed below are the five teams and who they have left to play in the season with home/road games remaining.
Chicago (8) 3/5 Home Lightning, Blues, Red Wings, Road Wings, Bruins, Jackets, Canadiens, Wings
Toughest schedule to get iinto the fourth spot. Two Back to Backs in the final eight. Five games against playoff contenders. The Hawks are five points behind Phoenix. Just making the playoffs might be a better option for the defending champs. Finish the season with a road and home game against the Wings.
Anaheim (7) 4/3 Home Avalanche, Stars, Sharks, Kings Road Flames, Sharks, Kings.
Those pesky Ducks are four points behind Phoenix and have a shot at winning the Pacific division with five out of the remaining seven against division opponents. The Ducks have two games in hand over Phoenix. Unfortunately none are against the Coyotes.
LA Kings (7) 3/4 Home Stars, Coyotes, Ducks Road Oilers, Canucks, Sharks, Ducks
Prior to Saturday afternoon this team would have been my pick other than the Predators to clinch the fourth spot. One point behind Phoenix a devasting injury to Anze Kopitar will challenge the character of the team. With two games in hand and a home game against the Coyotes it is possible for the Kings to clinch the fourth place spot. It will be interesting to see how the Kings respond without Anze for at least until the end of the season.
Nashville (6) 4/2 Home Canucks, Red Wings, Thrashers, Jackets Road Avalanche, Blues
One point behind Phoenix and with a game in hand the Predators have a favorable schedule. Nashville plays only two Stanley cup playoff teams. The remaining four games are against teams who are playing out the season. Those four games are teams the Predators should and must beat in order to get the fourth position. Clinching a first round home ice advantage would be a first step for the team getting over the"never won a playoff series" hump. A home winning percentage of nearly sixty percent (.595) Nashville is a tougher team at home. Finally, it would be nice to see the team up 2-0 in a series, By being up two love the Predators would be in control of the series instead of tied or down two love for a change.
Phoenix (5) 3/2 Home Stars, Avalanche, Sharks Road Kings, Sharks
Phoenix needs to follow the maxim by the Oakland Raider owner Al Davis and "JUST WIN BABY!". The Coyotes have the fewest games remaining the primary way they can control their destiny and clinch the fourth spot is by winning. If the desert dogs win out they would have 103 points. Forcing Nashville and Los Angeles to win six games to pass them.
Two weeks left in the season. Let the chase for the fourth spot begin.