The postseason is rapidly approaching and the game of musical chairs is about to stop. Realistically, there are eight teams in play (two in the East and six in the West) and they’re going to have to fit into four chairs once the music stops.
Sticking with the college basketball theme since the NCAA Tournament is in the Final Four round, let’s have a look at the bubble teams in the NHL.
Be sure to follow SBR’s Hockey handicappers through this critical stretch of the season. Check for our daily NHL picks, as wellas our life NHL odds for all of the scheduled NHL matchups.
Here’s a closer examination of this year’s bubble teams and their chances:
Buffalo Sabres – 86 Points, Five Games Left
The Sabres are in great spirits after leaving Washington with an emphatic 5-1 win on Tuesday. They’re now in control of their own destiny, which is something they’ve had to work really hard to do.
Goaltender Ryan Miller has been playing out of his mind of late, going 14-1-3 in his last 18 starts. Meanwhile, the team is 19-5-5 in their last 29 games.
They’re playing with plenty of confidence and are not a team anyone will want to face come playoff time. To get there, they’ll have to finish up strong with games against Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the Boston Bruins left, although they still have two against Toronto.
Washington Capitals – 84 Points, Five Games Left
The Capitals were dealt a big blow in their loss to Buffalo on Tuesday and quite frankly, nobody wants to see them in the playoffs at this point. They’ve now lost five of seven and sneaking in as an eight seed is not what this team had in mind. And that’s exactly the problem.
Is Washington capable of making the playoffs? Sure – they’re still just two points out. The problem is that this a veteran team that had Stanley Cup expectations and now knows they don’t have a shot. They’re simply not built properly to make a serious run and given that the locker room knows that, their efforts have been lacking. That’s been the problem all season long and it looks like it’s still hampering them
San Jose Sharks – 88 Points, Six Games Left
The Sharks, Stars, Coyotes and Kings even have a leg up on the Avalanche and the Flames. That’s because the first four teams are all in the Pacific Division, which means that one of them will win it and have the third seed in the West – even if it’s with fewer points than Colorado and Calgary.
The Sharks have picked up their play recently with three straight wins, which includes a 5-1 win over Colorado on Monday. The Sharks are 6-2-1 in their last nine.
Even so, this team looks very frail. Nobody believes they’re a true Cup contender and given their track record, success this season is only measured by a Stanley Cup ring. You never know what you’ll get with the Sharks but for now, they look like they’re going to the dance.
Dallas Stars – 87 Points, Six Games Left
Like many of the teams in the Pacific, the Stars have gone from hot to cold like a woman in menopause.
They vaulted to the top of the division with a 10-0-1 run starting in late February. More recently, though, the Stars have dropped four of six.
They’ve been milking the most of what their limited roster has to offer but now it’s crunch time. They have a very tough schedule down the stretch, which includes games against Vancouver, Nashville, St. Louis and two against San Jose. They’re going to have to turn things around immediately if they’re to make the playoffs.
Phoenix Coyotes – 87 Points, Five Games Left
The Coyotes lost only once in February while finishing with an 11-0-1 record. That’s really what propelled them into the playoff conversation.
And just as good as they were in February, they’ve been equally as bad in March.
The Coyotes have lost 10 of 14 and they haven’t even looked good in their four wins. Three of them have come by just one goal.
Speaking of goals, they’ve been pretty hard to come by recently. They’ve averaged just 2.43 this month and unless that changes, they probably won’t be in the playoffs.
The good news is they have a relatively easy schedule with Anaheim, Columbus and Minnesota still left on the docket. The Coyotes will have to take full advantage of those gimmes.
Los Angeles Kings – 86 Points, Six Games Left
Most people feel that the Los Angeles Kings would be a tough out if they squeaked into the playoffs but maybe it’s time for us to embrace reality. This is truly an inconsistent team that hasn’t put it together this season. Sure, the talent is there but the consistency sure isn’t.
Just when it looked like they put those goal scoring woes to bed with a six-game winning streak in which the Kings scored 21 goals in the first five games, they’ve reverted back to their old ways. The Kings have tallied just three goals in their last three games.
They’re next four games will tell the story: at Calgary, at Edmonton, at Minnesota, versus Edmonton. If they don’t win three of those games, then forget about them. They finish up the season with a home-and-home with San Jose, so this team still has potential but they’ve always had that. They need to produce results.
Colorado Avalanche – 86 Points, Four Games Left
Even though they’re just one point out of a playoff spot, the Avs have an uphill battle to fight. They’ve played 78 games this season, which is one more than Phoenix and Calgary, and two more than Los Angeles, Dallas and San Jose. Worse yet, they lost to San Jose on Monday, which doubly hurts since it’s one of their chief competitors.
Overall, they’ve now lost three straight and appear to be in dire straits. A matchup with Calgary on Friday will likely tell their tale but realistically, the Avs probably need to win at least three of their final four to get in.
Calgary Flames – 85 Points, Five Games Left
The Flames did themselves a big favor by beating the Stars 5-4 on Monday but that’s just the start. It was their first win in six tries and now is not the time to be mired in a slump.
The biggest challenge for the Flames is not just that they have one fewer game than most of the contenders. They also have a very challenging schedule. Not only do they face Los Angeles and Colorado this week – two teams fighting for the same spot – they also have to face Vancouver two more times before the season ends. They may have to win at least four of their final five games to get in but that’s not likely to happen.