The calendar, at least, suggests that it’s spring. It also suggests — a whole lot more accurately, I’d suggest — that the NHL’s regular season is in its stretch run.
Which means, obviously, that teams are jockeying for their playoff lives.
With no real ties to Vegas, and by using some numbers that I completely made up in my head, here are the chances of some of the NHL’s iron and some of its lesser citizens when it comes to making the playoffs and beyond:
TORONTO (-200) WILL FAIL TO WIN A FIRST-ROUND SERIES
As of this writing, the Maple Leasts are holding onto the first to two Eastern Conference wild card playoff spots — three points up with just 11 games remaining. At this point in the season, it’s hard enough for teams to make up ground in the standings, let alone leapfrog a bunch of teams to get into a playoff spot. So I’ll concede that Toronto is in.
But it won’t mean much.
If any team really let itself down at the trade deadline, it was the Leafs — who elected to stand pat and hope. You know, hope that Phil Kessel wouldn’t continue to shrink under pressure, hope that Nazem Kadri could be a shadow of the player that only he thinks he is, hope that Randy Carlyle won’t keep calling out his own goaltender in losses. We all know none of those things is going to happen, and worse yet, Toronto is headed for a showdown with either Boston, Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay in the first round. Tampa’s the only shot they have at advancing to the finals of the divisional round, and even that’s a dicey proposition at best.
Which tells any smart observer that the Leafs will be a one-and-done group, if they hold on to make the postseason at all.
Fun fact: Remember October when we al thought this was a new Leafs squad that was finally going to live up to its expectations? Yeah, those were good times.
PHOENIX (-130) WILL HOLD ONTO THE FINAL PLAYOFF SPOT IN THE WEST.
There will always be the top-flight offensive threats in the Dallas lineup (read: Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn) to give the Desert Dogs fear that there’s no sure thing here, but Phoenix won’t be caught.
In fact, the teams in the Western Conference now are playing simply for playoff seeding than for any type of playoff life.
Phoenix has a four-point lead over the Stars with just 12 games remaining (five over the awful Vancouver Canucks) and is too deep and too gritty to just fold. Unlike teams like Dallas and Vancouver, the ‘Yotes are built to survive and aren’t as reliant on hot-and-cold offensive bursts. Sad as it is, Dallas is further hampered by the entire Rich Peverley situation. It’s not an X’s and O’s issue, either — it’s an emotional one, evidenced by the game being canceled after just six and a half minutes on the night Peverley went down.
Teams don’t overcome those kinds of things. That kind of emotion sort of takes the coach’s “We’re in a fight for our lives!” motivational locker room speech and puts it in a perspective that doesn’t mean a whole lot.
Fun fact: Remember when Vancouver was good? Remember when they had the best goaltending tandem in the entire league with Luongo and Schneider? Yeah, so do they. And it’s KILLING them.
DETROIT (+300) WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.
Of course they will. They’re the Red Wings. Mike Babcock will just stare that bucket of frozen pucks into submission in a dark alley out behind Joe Louis Arena, and said pucks will melt into a puddle of unrecognizable rubber before suddenly reconstituting themselves in the St. Louis net on the final afternoon of the regular season.
It’s a long shot, but I don’t see the Columbus being battle-tested enough to survive when things get really ugly in the final days of the regular season, and I don’t believe that acquiring Marty St. Louis was enough to make the Rangers into a legitimate playoff team.
It’s a hunch, but you don’t have to lay a whole lot to reap the benefits of a Red Wings’ playoff appearance.
Fun fact: You just know, as a Bruins fan, that the Red Wings will sneak in and find a way to derail the Bruins train in six games. You just know it. You do. Which, I guess, makes that 2-to-1 Bruins bet to win the Cup kind of a risky play, no?
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