The race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division looks like it’s narrowing down to two teams as the regular season nears its conclusion.
The West Division playoff picture is starting to clear up in the final weeks of the regular season.
The Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, and Minnesota Wild have all looked like locks for a while now, and they all officially clinched their spots in the postseason this past week. That leaves one spot up for grabs, and with the LA Kings and San Jose Sharks doing little to suggested they’re interested in it, it’s looking more and more like it’s going to come down to the St. Louis Blues and Arizona Coyotes.
Here’s how the Kings and everyone else in the division stack up in the latest edition of our power rankings.
1. Vegas Golden Knights (34-11-2)
Last week: 2
Make it nine straight wins for the Golden Knights as they make a serious push for the top seed in the division. Granted, the last seven have come against the Kings, Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks, but you don’t get to choose your schedule, and the Knights have been taking care of business against the teams they should be taking care of business against. Vegas has been firing on all cylinders offensively, too, scoring four or more goals in six of those seven games.
Next four games: Colorado, @ Arizona (2), @ Minnesota
2. Colorado Avalanche (31-10-4)
Last week: 1
The Avalanche returned from a week-long COVID-19 pause to split a pair of games with the Blues, with one more game in St. Louis coming up on Monday. Colorado has fallen four points back of Vegas for first place but does have two games in hand. Wednesday’s game at T-Mobile Arena — the penultimate match-up between these teams in the regular season — could go a long way in deciding the race.
Next four games: @ St. Louis, @ Vegas, VS San Jose (2)
3. Minnesota Wild (31-13-3)
Last week: 3
Seven straight wins! You have to give the Wild credit. They just haven’t stopped winning all year and are still right on the heels of the Golden Knights and Avalanche. Moving up and getting home-ice advantage in the first round isn’t even completely out of the realm of possibility. Of course, the playoffs could end up being in a bubble again, and then it wouldn’t matter, but that wouldn’t diminish how impressive Minnesota’s season has been.
Next four games: St. Louis (3), Vegas
4. St. Louis Blues (20-19-6)
Last week: 4
A big win over the Avalanche on Saturday for the Blues, who have three games in hand on the Coyotes but a much tougher remaining schedule to be with. After one more against Colorado on Monday, they’ll head on the road for three games against Minnesota, a team that has been incredibly tough to beat at home this year.
Next four games: Colorado, @ Minnesota (3)
5. Arizona Coyotes (21-22-5)
Last week: 5
The Coyotes bounced back from a pair of losses in Minnesota by laying a beat down in LA on Saturday. That game might have said more about the Kings than it did about the Coyotes, but the Yotes may not have to beat any good teams to make the playoffs. Aside from two home games against Vegas, Arizona’s schedule is smooth sailing the rest of the way.
Next four games: @ San Jose (2), Vegas (2)
6. San Jose Sharks (18-24-5)
Last week: 6
Things aren’t going great as of late for the Sharks, who’ve now gone eight straight games without a win. We’ll blame their struggles on the fact that they haven’t been playing the Kings, who are apparently the only team they’re capable of beating.
Next four games: Arizona (2), @ Colorado (2)
7. LA Kings (17-22-6)
Last week: 7
The Sharks’ recent performance could give me an excuse to drop them below the Kings, who are now ahead of them in points percentage. But it’s not like the LA Kings have been doing a lot to justify moving them up either, and given the way the Sharks owned the season series between the teams this year, I just can’t do it.
It seems silly to even continue entertaining the possibility of a postseason berth at this point — they clearly don’t deserve to be in the playoffs, and how many “must-win games” can a team lose before you declare them finished? — so I will fight the urge to mention that these four consecutive games coming up against the Ducks could provide them with one final opportunity to make a run.
Next four games: Anaheim (2), @ Anaheim (2)
8. Anaheim Ducks (14-27-7)
Last week: 8
For most of the season, it was hard to imagine anyone finishing below the Buffalo Sabres for last place overall and the best draft lottery odds, but the Ducks are making a late charge. They’re currently on a four-game losing streak in which they’ve been outscored 18-4. Anaheim heads into Monday with two more points than Buffalo and one fewer game played. Do Ducks fans want to see their team deliver the final blow to the Kings’ playoff chances, or would they rather try to get some more of those sweet, sweet ping pong balls?
Next four games: @ LA Kings (2), LA Kings