NHL Pacific Division: How Will the Final Week Play Out?
Around that time, the NHL regular season will be all but wrapped up, with just one more period (maybe an OT and a shootout) to to be played. However, at that moment, the Pacific Division race—or the playoff fates of two to four teams—will likely be anything but decided.
What they will be playing for is unknown. That final game could determine who wins the Pacific Division. It could determine seventh and eighth place. It could determine one or both team's playoff fates. It could end up that the winner will finish in third, and the loser in ninth.
What that game ends up meaning will be determined over the next seven days. As it stands now, the Kings lead the Pacific Division with 90 points and the Sharks sit fourth in the division with 88. In between are the Stars and Coyotes, with 89 points apiece.
All four teams have four games remaining.
In other words, through 78 games, absolutely nothing has been determined in the Pacific Division (other than the fact that the Anaheim Ducks will finish in last).
Having said that, the remaining schedules and current variations in point totals—minuscule as they are—do make it possible, or at least plausible, to predict how this will all shake out.
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Total points: 89
Games remaining: @San Jose, vs. San Jose, @Nashville, vs. St. Louis
What the Stars need to win the division: Dallas has the toughest schedule of all four teams down the stretch. They end the season by visiting a hostile Predators team and then hosting the best team in the league. This means that Dallas needs to sweep a home-and-home series with the Sharks, and then hope for some help from L.A. and Phoenix.
What the Stars need to make the playoffs: Despite Dallas' tough final two games, their home-and-home with San Jose gives them a chance to clinch the playoffs. If they beat the Sharks twice (and at least once in regulation), they'll be four or five points ahead of San Jose, which will make it impossible for the Sharks to catch them.
How the Stars could miss out: If Dallas splits with San Jose and then loses to Nashville and St. Louis, they'll likely finish in ninth place. Phoenix, San Jose and Los Angeles would only need to win two of their final four games to knock Dallas out.
Prediction: 91 points, Ninth in Pacific
Los Angeles Kings
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Total points: 90
Games remaining: @Minnesota, vs. Edmonton, vs. San Jose, @San Jose
What the Kings need to win the division: The Kings are in a great position. If they win out, they clinch the Pacific, as they have at least one more point than anybody else. Their games against Minnesota and Edmonton are very winnable. If they win both, they likely only need a split with San Jose to wrap up the Pacific.
What the Kings need to make the playoffs: The Kings need to beat Minnesota and Edmonton. If they split with the Sharks in a home-and-home series to end the season, they will likely only need to beat either the Wild or the Oilers to make the playoffs, though if the Sharks sweep them, they'll need both wins.
How the Kings could miss out: If the Kings lose to Minnesota or Edmonton and are swept by the Sharks, they'll probably miss the playoffs; San Jose will move ahead of them while Dallas and Phoenix will only need to win two of four.
Prediction: 96 Points, First in Pacific
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Total points: 89
Games remaining: vs. Anaheim, vs. Columbus, @St. Louis, @Minnesota
What the Coyotes need to win the division: The Coyotes have less control of their fate than any team remaining. With no games against the Stars, Kings or Sharks, the Coyotes must hope that those teams split their games with each other. If they do, Phoenix will still need to beat Anaheim, Columbus and Minnesota to have a chance at the division title.
What the Coyotes need to make the playoffs: If Phoenix can take care of the lowly Ducks, Blue Jackets and Wild, they'll make the playoffs. A likely loss at St. Louis coupled with any other loss could keep them out, but they're still very likely to get in with just two wins.
How the Coyotes could miss out: If the Sharks sweep the Kings and the Coyotes win two of four, Phoenix will still need help to make the playoffs. Dallas has a tough final schedule, but they only need to win two of four to stay ahead of Phoenix.
Prediction: 93 points, Seventh in Pacific
San Jose Sharks
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Total points: 88
Games remaining: vs. Dallas, @Dallas, @Los Angeles, vs. Los Angeles
What the Sharks need to win the division: Despite being behind all three teams in the Pacific Division race, the Sharks control their own destiny. If they win out, they win the division. If they split with Dallas and then sweep the Kings, they need Phoenix to lose twice and Dallas to lose one additional game.
What the Sharks need to make the playoffs: The Sharks likely need three of four. If they do that, they're in. If they split with the Stars and Kings, they need Dallas to lose their final two or Phoenix to lose three of four.
How the Sharks could miss out: If the Sharks win two of four, they likely won't get in; the Kings will finish ahead of them and the Coyotes and Stars will only need to win two, as well. That still gives them a chance, but three losses and they're eliminated barring the Coyotes losing all four.
Prediction: 92 points, Eighth in Pacific