Western Conference Playoff Push – 94 points or bust?

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Friday, February 25, 2011 - Save & Share - One Comment

Current Western Conference standings:

(before games played Feb 25th, 2011)

1 – Vancouver Canucks* 62GP, 39-14-9, 87 points
2 – Detroit Red Wings* 61GP, 37-18-6, 80 points
3 – San Jose Sharks* 62GP, 35-21-6, 76 points
4 – Phoenix Coyotes 62GP, 33-20-9, 75 points
5 – Los Angeles Kings 61GP, 34-23-4, 72 points
6 – Minnesota Wild 61GP, 32-23-6, 70 points
7 – Chicago Blackhawks 61GP, 32-23-6, 70 points
8 – Dallas Stars 61GP, 32-23-6, 70 points
9 – Nashville Predators 61GP, 31-22-8, 70 points
10 – Calgary Flames 62GP, 31-23-8, 70 points
11 – Anaheim Ducks 61GP, 32-25-4 68 points
12 – Columbus Blue Jackets 59GP, 30-23-6, 66 points
13 – St. Louis Blues 60GP, 27-24-9, 63 points
14 – Colorado Avalanche 61GP, 26-28-7, 59 points
15 – Edmonton Oilers 61GP, 20-33-8, 48 points

* division leader

Projected Western Conference standings:

(after 82 games played)

1 – Vancouver Canucks* 82GP, 52-18-12, 116 points (3 PSOW)
2 – Detroit Red Wings* 82GP, 50-24-8, 108 points (4 PSOW)
3 – San Jose Sharks* 82GP, 46-28-8, 100 points (4 PSOW)
4 – Phoenix Coyotes 82GP, 44-26-12, 100 points (4 PSOW)
5 – Los Angeles Kings 82GP, 47-29-6, 100 points (9 PSOW)
6 – Minnesota Wild 82GP, 43-31-8, 94 points (3 PSOW)
7 – Dallas Stars 82GP, 43-31-8, 94 points (7 PSOW)
8 – Chicago Blackhawks 82GP, 43-31-8, 94 points (5 PSOW)
9 – Nashville Predators 82GP, 41-30-11, 93 points (8 PSOW)
10 – Calgary Flames 82GP, 41-30-11, 93 points (9 PSOW)
11 – Columbus Blue Jackets 82GP, 42-32-8, 92 points (5 PSOW)
12 – Anaheim Ducks 82GP, 43-33-6, 92 points (9 PSOW)
13 – St. Louis Blues 82GP, 37-33-12, 86 points (4 PSOW)
14 – Colorado Avalanche 82GP, 35-38-9, 79 points (4 PSOW)
15 – Edmonton Oilers 82GP, 27-44-11, 65 points (1 PSOW)

* projected division winner
PSOW – projected shootout wins

The Western Conference playoff picture has tightened considerably since the 2011 Allstar Game break. Back on February 1st the Sharks were projected to finish in a 4-team tie for the final two playoff spots in the West. The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks were expected to edge the Sharks and Avalanche based on winning percentage and the new post-season tiebreaker (regulation and overtime wins only). Since that time the Sharks have performed a remarkable turnaround. They have gone on a blistering 10-2 run behind the stellar goaltending of Antti Niemi, put themselves on pace for a 5th straight 100-point season, and moved into first place in the Pacific Division for the first time since the opening week of the season.

The tight playoff race in the West is changing week to week. Last Thursday there was a 4-team tie for the last 4 playoff spots in the West, but San Jose, Phoenix and Los Angeles have earned the smallest margin of seperation with approximately 20 games remaining in the season. “It is what it is. I hate that cliche, but it is tight,” San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said of the Western Conference standings after a 4-3 win against his former team in Detroit. “For some teams that is a great thing. I hope it is for our team, that we can maintain a high level of play, carry it on, and we don’t burn ourselves out. We put ourselves in this situation where we have to compete hard every night. We don’t get an opportunity for a stinker. Maybe that is a good thing for us.”

The heightened tensions have forced several Western Conference general managers to make key moves a week before the February 28th NHL trade deadline. Since Thursday, Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray acquired F Jarkko Ruutu from Ottawa, and traded backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney to Tampa for Dan Ellis. Ellis provides a solid veteran backup while #1 Jonas Hiller recovers from possible vertigo, and with Ray Emery returning from offseason hip surgery. St. Louis traded defenseman Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay, and acquired a pair of Avs. Secretive Colorado GM Greg Sherman traded last year’s franchise goaltender Craig Anderson to Ottawa for the serviceable Brian Elliot, and traded power forward Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk to St Louis for Erik Johnson and Jay MacClement. According to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman on Yahoo Puck Daddy radio, there may have been some tension in the Avs locker room between players and the coaching staff. San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson traded 7th defenseman Derek Joslin to Carolina and picked up offensive defenseman Ian White in a seperate trade. The Dallas Stars made their own blockbuster deal, sending LW James Neal and D Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for offensive defenseman Alex Goligoski.

Post-lockout, 90-95 points was the target for teams to make the playoffs. Last season was the first time a team qualified for the postseason with less than 91 points since the introduction of the shootout. The Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers both qualified with 88 points, and both advanced to the Conference Finals in the East. In the five seasons since the lockout, Western Conference teams that qualified for the 8th playoff spot needed to earn an average of 93.6 points (05-06 Edmonton – 95 points, 06-07 Calgary – 96 points, 07-08 Nashville – 91 points, 08-09 Anaheim – 91 points, 09-10 Colorado – 95 points).

[Update] Current Western Conference playoff race – LAkings.com.

[Update2] A look back at the NHL press release that announced the new tiebreak change in September: Board of Governors approve new tiebreaker system.

While 20 of the League’s best players were in New York for a preseason promotional tour, the NHL’s Board of Governors gathered at a nearby hotel to approve a new tiebreaker system for the standings. Starting with the 2010-11 season, the tiebreaker among teams with the same total of points in the standings will go to the club with the most regulation and overtime wins — no longer including shootout wins in the decision.

“All of our research indicates overwhelmingly that the fans do like the shootouts,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “There has been an increase [in shootouts] in the last year, after consistent numbers in the four prior years, but one year does not an issue make.” Statistics prove out the Commissioner’s point: From the 2005-06 season through 2008-09, games resulting in overtime ranged from 272 to 282 and shootouts ranged from 145 to 164. Last season, total overtime games totaled 301 and there were 184 shootouts.

[Update3] Current NHL Playoff Matchups – ESPN.com.

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One Response to “Western Conference Playoff Push – 94 points or bust?”

Pingback from Western Conference Playoff Push – 95 points or bust? | SHARKSPAGE
Time March 18, 2011 at 5:19 PM

[...] stock plummeting faster than TriMount Studios. A flurry of trades surrounded the playoff push on February 25th. Anaheim brought in Jarkko Ruutu and Dan Ellis, St. Louis traded Eric Brewer, a disasterous series [...]