Western Conference still unclear with 2 weeks before NHL Playoffs

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Apr 6, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kyle Burroughs (44) checks Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (9) during the third period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Western Conference has only four teams locked into a playoff spot with two weeks remaining before the NHL playoffs begin in May.

In the Central Division, the Colorado Avalanche locked up the top spot in the West and will have home ice advantage. The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues recently punched their tickets to the playoffs as they fight to see who gets home ice in their inevitable first-round series.

The Calgary Flames are the only team in the Pacific Division to have clinched. So what does the rest of the West look like? Let’s dive in.

Western Conference Playoff Outlook

The Eastern Conference has all 8 spots taken with only the Florida Panthers a virtual lock to claim the top seed. Otherwise, it’s a matter of jockeying for playoff positioning for the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning.

There are four spots left to be decided, but the Edmonton Oilers appear to be fairly comfortable with 94 points to claim either second or third-place in the Pacific. The Los Angeles Kings have 90 points with the Vegas Golden Knights (87) three points back and a game in hand. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks (84) are six points out of third with two games in hand on the Kings.

Currently, the two wild cards are held by Central Division teams. The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators each have 91 points with the Stars at 75 games played and the Preds with 76.

It is extremely possible that five of the eight teams in the post season will come from the Central.

Golden Knights hanging by a thread

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Mar 8, 2020; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (90) makes a save as Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) tries to score during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries have certainly had a serious impact on the Golden Knights. A team that has not missed the playoffs since joining the NHL four seasons ago.

However, since Shea Theodore scored the game-winning goal to give Vegas a 3-2 overtime win in Vancouver on April 3, the Golden Knights are 2-2-1 in their past five and head into their final six games four points behind the Stars, who have a game in hand and visit Vancouver on Monday.

“We got six games remaining. I don’t know how many we’re going to have to win, but it starts on Monday,” Vegas winger Mark Stone said. “We’ve got to get that one.”

The Golden Knights will host the New Jersey Devils and look to close some ground on the wild card teams.

“We have to regroup,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “We’ve talked about this, we knew we weren’t going to run the table and we talked about two weeks ago, we were going to drop some points along the way, but we’re still right in the thick of things. We have to have a short memory and get ready for the next one.”

Dallas Stars looking good

The Stars are looking really good to make the postseason as they are hot at the right time. They are currently on a 10-3-2 run as they head down the stretch.

“We got the job done in the third period,” coach Rick Bowness said. “They’re hard to play against, the teams that are out of the playoffs. They have a lot of speed over there, a lot of young players, and they made it hard for us to play. We battled through. That’s all that matters. Find a way to win.”

Dallas starts three-game road trip through Western Canada starting with a team they can basically eliminate from contention, the Vancouver Canucks. They take on the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames next.

While the Stars are tied with the Nashville Predators for the two wild-card spots, they are well aware the Golden Knights are still close behind them.

“We know the type of road trip we have ahead of us, obviously three good teams,” goaltender Jake Oettinger said. “All three are either in the playoffs or fighting for their lives. We had to take care of business here at home and set ourselves up for a great road trip. If we take care of business on the road, the last week of the season we won’t really need to rely on anyone (to qualify for the playoffs).”

Per the website MoneyPuck here’s the percentage for each team to make the playoffs:

  • Oilers 99.8%
  • Stars 94.2%
  • Predators 85%
  • Kings 80.7%
  • Golden Knights 35.7%
  • Canucks 4.6%