Wow. Nashville, eighth, 86 points. Vancouver, ninth, 86 points. Edmonton, tenth, 86 points. Does it get much closer than this folks?
I wrote an article about a week ago, trying to give some predictions, and I had it all wrong. I had Vancouver comfortably finishing seventh, Colorado comfortably finishing eighth, and Edmonton finishing unlucky ninth. My apologies to all the Predators fans out there.
Let's start with the current ninth placed Canucks:
When I wrote my previous article, I couldn't put the Canucks on a 4-game losing streak. What has hurt them is that the four losses were to their divisional teams, all teams they were chasing for the division lead. Losses to Calgary, Colorado, and two to division leaders Minnesota have cost them dearly.
It's not panic time yet for Vancouver. Their final four games are all at home, where they are 20-12-5 this season, and you can't possibly think that this team are going to lose their last 8 games of the season and miss the playoffs. Their penultimate clash against Edmonton could be the one that kills off the Oilers charge for eighth place.
Nashville won 2-0 at Columbus yesterday and moved into eighth place after Vancouver was beaten 4-0 at Minnesota. The road home for the Predators includes 3 away games, to Detroit, St. Louis, and Chicago, and a home game against St. Louis. The Predators have won their last two road games however, including a 3-1 win against league-leading Detroit.
Edmonton have the disadvantage of only having two games left to play, and are relying on either Vancouver or Nashville to slip up. Their next game is at home to Calgary, whom they beat today at the Saddledome 2-1. The final clash between the Oilers and Canucks could be one that decides which one of the two makes the playoffs.
It is really hard to predict who will finish where even at this stage. Despite the four game losing streak, you would think Vancouver would win at least 2 of their 4 home games left. This would put them on 90 points, but it all depends on who they beat - winning against Calgary and Colorado might not get them anywhere, because they are both 4 points ahead of the Canucks already, but losing to Edmonton could be costly, because should Oilers win their last games, they would also finish on 90 points, but the Oilers would have more wins, and finish ahead of Vancouver. However, three wins would shut the door on the Oilers.
But then there's Nashville. All they need to do is equal Vancouver's record in the final four games, and they will finish higher as they have more wins. What this basically means is, should Nashville win two of their remaining four games, that will shut the door on Vancouver if they also win two. And another twist, if Nashville wins two, and Edmonton wins both their remaining games, Edmonton would leapfrog above Nashville into eighth, as they would have more wins, but that depends on Vancouver winning 2 games or less. There are lots of variables.
As for predictions?? I'll try my best:
Vancouver are out of form, and it is hard seeing them winning more than two of their last four games, but having home ice against Edmonton should be enough to see them get the win there, so that puts Edmonton out in tenth. At the same time, I think Nashville can also do enough for two wins. They play struggling St. Louis twice, Chicago whom the beat last time out, and Detroit whom they beat last time out.
8th - Nashville 90-92 points
9th - Vancouver 90-92 points
10th - Edmonton 86-88 points
Nashville will be relieved that they don't have to play San Jose this time round.