When there are just five games left in the regular season, and for some teams more or fewer games remaining, it's usually safe to speculate who is in and who is out of the postseason.
But when you look at the Western Conference, you can tell this is really not the case.
First, looking at the point totals: It seems there is more of a division between the top eight and the bottom seven than there has been. Then you check out the games-played column and see that Dallas is currently in the ninth spot. However, they are two games back from Anaheim, and one back from the eighth-seeded Chicago Blackhawks.
Anaheim is three points above the cutoff for the playoffs, but that's just now. Let's take a closer look at some of the key games that could dictate who will be in, and who will be out.
Anaheim has some brutal showdowns coming up, all five divided between three division rivals: two against the San Jose Sharks, two against the LA Kings, and one against the Dallas Stars. Anaheim is currently ranked fourth in the Pacific division, only above Dallas.
There are two games that the Ducks play facing off against the San Jose Sharks, once in the comfort of the Honda Center and once in the biting waters of the HP Pavilion. Currently, the series between these two California clubs is split, each team winning two of the four showdowns of this season.
However, one of Anaheim's wins came in overtime, giving San Jose five points, and Anaheim just four. This is a matchup that always spells for exciting games, considering there has not been a strong case of home-ice advantage one way or another.
As far as I see, as long as Anaheim can win at least one of these two contests, then it can really help propel Anaheim further into the safety of the playoff standings.
The Ducks have a similar situation in their two games against the LA Kings. They have also split the season series evenly: two wins for each team. One of the Anaheim victories came in overtime, giving the Kings one more point.
The same lack of home-ice advantage also stands true in the contests against the LA team. Long story short, right now, the Kings are seated just one rank above the Ducks, so these games can really make or break either team's playoff hopes.
The fifth game is against the Dallas Stars, currently the only Pacific Division team who is on the outside looking in on the playoff seats. Anaheim is leading the series against Dallas with four wins in five contests this season. Anaheim really needs to pull out two points when they play against the Stars in order to stay safely in the top eight teams.
Aside from these important games the Ducks are involved in, here are the big showdowns in the West that can really affect Anaheim's position in the standings:
Will Anaheim make it into the post-season?
Chicago vs. Columbus: Columbus is safely out of playoff discussion, so a win for the 'Hawks could help keep Chicago at bay.
Dallas vs. Los Angeles: Pick your poison Anaheim fans. If LA wins then they can pull further away from the Ducks, but if the Stars come out with two points, then they come closer up the rankings behind Anaheim
Hopefully, most of the games in the Western Conference are just two-point wins in regulation, instead of complicating the points with overtime losses.
With the hot streaks that some players, such as Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Ray Emery, have been riding, hopefully Anaheim can extend this three-game winning streak.
So, will Anaheim make the playoffs? From how they have been playing recently, I have to be optimistic and say that yes, the Ducks' season will continue.
Anaheim has had several comeback victories, and despite weak starts, they still close out the night on top.