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April 10th West Playoff Race Update

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I'll be doing three updates this week. But instead of looking back at the week that was for the playoff combatants, I'll just tell you what each team needs to do (and in some cases, what other teams need to do) in order to make the playoffs.

But first, a look at the current standings

Now let's get this out of the way. The Sharks have clinched the top seed in the West and their magic number for clinching the President's Trophy over Boston is two points. San Jose has one game left at Los Angeles tomorrow night. If they win that game, they'll win the President's Trophy. If they lose in OT or a shootout, Boston would need to beat the Sabres tomorrow night and the Islanders on Sunday to clinch the top seed overall in the NHL.

A San Jose regulation loss means Boston would just need to get three points in their final two games to clinch. That would create a tie in wins and the second tiebreaker of goal differential would be invoked. And right now, Boston has a +79 to +54 advantage.

Detroit is locked into the second seed.

Vancouver currently leads Calgary by two points in the battle for the Northwest Division but the Flames do have a game in hand. And they also have 45 wins to Vancouver's 44 and would win the tiebreaker if it comes down to that. Vancouver has a road contest in Colorado to close out the season on Saturday while Calgary starts up the first half of a home and home with their Alberta rivals, the Edmonton Oilers. Tonight's contest will occur up in Edmonton with the return trip tomorrow night in Calgary.

If Vancouver beats Colorado like I expect them to, then the Flames would need to sweep the home and home with the Oilers. If Vancouver loses in OT or the shootout, then Calgary would need three points in their final two games. If Vancouver somehow loses to Colorado tomorrow night, the Flames would only need to split the points available. It doesn't matter how they get them.

Whoever loses this battle will play the Blackhawks in a series that would likely open in the Windy City. If that does occur, that would mark the first time the Hawks have opened a playoff series with home ice advantage since 1996 when Chicago swept Calgary in the first round before bowing out in the second round to Colorado.

Chicago closes out the season with a home and home against Detroit. Saturday night is in Motown while Sunday will be the home regular season finale at the United Center. Chicago's magic number for clinching the 4th seed is one point. If they lose both games in regulation against the Red Wings, Calgary would need to win it's final two games to knock Chicago down to 5th.

Another team whose magic number is one for clinching their current seed is the Columbus Blue Jackets. They clinched the franchise's first playoff spot by beating the Blackhawks in the shootout on Thursday night. If they get one point in any of their two remaining games at St. Louis tonight and at home against Minnesota on Saturday, they'll clinch the 6th seed and would open up on the road against either Vancouver or Calgary.

If they lose both contests, they could lose the 6th seed if either Anaheim or St. Louis win out. Anaheim would get them on wins as both teams currently have 41 wins. St. Louis would tie them in wins at 41 at the end of the year. For goal differential, Columbus is at a +1 while St. Louis is at a -3.

If both teams are tied in points, wins, and goal differential at the end of the year...well, I'm sure the NHL will send out some kind of an update to their tiebreaking procedures that makes sense. Maybe they'll follow the Kenny Holland proposal.

And now we get to the little logjam between Anaheim, St. Louis, and Nasvhille. Well, actually, let me skip over those teams and just go to Minnesota, whose playoff hopes are on life support as they sit three points behind those three teams in 10th. Of course, that means Minny would need to jump two of the teams to even get in.

Right now, the Wild have 38 wins. That trails Nashville's 40 wins, St. Louis' 39 wins, and Anaheim's 41 wins. Obviously, they can't catch Anaheim so if they get in a tiebreaker for the 8th seed with the Ducks' they're screwed.

The good news is, if there's any to be had, is that Minnesota has a game in hand on Nashville. And if the two teams tie in wins at the end of the year, the Wild would almost assuredly win the goal differential tiebreaker (+12 versus -16).

And if the Wild end up tied with St. Louis at the end of the year, they would either win the Wins tiebreaker or the Goal Differential tiebreaker (+12 versus -3).

Now to Nashville, which tied the Blues and Ducks at 88 points with their come-from-behind win at Detroit last night. The problem they have is both St. Louis and Anaheim hold a game in hand on the Predators.

They also have a bad Goal Differential of -16. So if they are to finish ahead of Anaheim, they'd have to obviously beat Minnesota to close out their regular season and hope the Ducks lose their final two games of the year in any fashion. They'd win a tiebreaker over St. Louis if they beat Minnesota and the Blues split their four remaining points.

If they lost to Minnesota in OT or the shootout, they'd need the Blues to lose one of their remaining games in regulation and the other in OT or a shootout or they'd need the Ducks to lose their final two games in regulation.

Long post, but after tonight's games, the playoff picture should clear up quite a bit.