For Detroit Red Wings fans, there has been some speculation as to whether the Red Wings should "throw games" in order to drop to sixth overall and play the winner of the Pacific Division in the first round of the playoffs, as the Pacific Division winner will (at the end of the season) have fewer points than Vancouver, St. Louis, Detroit, Nashville and Chicago.
Well, as of this weekend, any thoughts of slipping to sixth place to face a "soft" third-place team should be gone as far as I'm concerned.
The Pacific Division currently sits like this.
Los Angeles is the division leader with 93 points, San Jose is right behind them with 92 points (seventh overall in the West), Phoenix has the last playoff spot with 91 points and Dallas is on the outside looking in with 89 points at the ninth spot overall.
So why should Detroit not try and fall to the sixth spot deliberately?
Ask any Red Wings fan which team is the team they would most like to see miss the playoffs in the West, and most fans would answer the San Jose Sharks.
The past two seasons, San Jose has ended Detroit's season in the second round of the playoffs. Each time, Detroit had played (and obviously beaten) the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs.
With San Jose just a point behind division leader Los Angeles (the Kings are a fairly decent team too for having the second-least goals in the league), the Sharks could take over the Pacific Division crown in what has been nothing short of a wild week in that division.
Would You Take the Chance of Falling to 6th Place and Facing the Sharks in the First Round?
Now while I'd like to say "third time's the charm" as far as beating the Sharks in the playoffs is concerned, Detroit should not roll the dice like that, especially if they have to give the Sharks home-ice advantage for the third straight meeting between the teams.
As the playoff picture currently stands, Detroit would be playing Nashville in the first round of the playoffs. Nashville has been thrown into the conversation to possibly make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this year.
Now, seeing as how Detroit has never lost to the Predators in the playoffs (knock on wood), it would be a much better scenario for Detroit, as Detroit has a game in hand on Nashville while being just a point back of the Predators right now.
Detroit plays St. Louis tonight. A win moves Detroit back into fourth place with 101 points. The Red Wings control their own destiny as far as seeding is concerned. Outside of the fact that St. Louis has locked up the top spot in the Central, the Red Wings still have home-ice to be playing for right now.
Playing Nashville in the first round means that Detroit does not have to go to the Pacific time zone to play their first-round series. The playoffs are grinding enough as it is, and the Red Wings do not need a gross time-zone difference to try to negotiate around as far as the first round is concerned.
Playing as the fourth seed against Nashville (or the Chicago Blackhawks, if that happened somehow) would mean that Detroit would play four home games and three road games in the Central time zone—only an hour behind Detroit's Eastern time zone.
Team That You Would Rather Play in the First Round?
The Red Wings' Dominance at Home This Season, and Their Struggles Away from Home
For all you hockey pundits out there who are somehow convinced that Detroit should still throw games to get that sixth spot, let me fill you in on a little something you may have overlooked.
There is a stark difference between Detroit's home and road records.
This regular season, Detroit has the most wins on home ice out of any team in the NHL.
As for their road record?
Well, it is the worst out of any team that has clinched a playoff spot in the NHL (the Capitals would be worse if they clinched). Detroit has the 22nd-best road record.
I know Detroit had the second-best road record last year, but when a team wins more than three-quarters of its games at home, I think that's a pretty good indication that they should take the home-ice advantage if they can get it.
Given, neither of the No. 4 seeds won their first-round series last year, and Nashville was the No. 5 seed then, but Detroit has to play by the numbers.
They win at home, they lose (more often than not) on the road.
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