Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nine lives: A look at the playoff bubble teams

Last week we took a look at the eight teams that had established themselves as the presumptive Stanley Cup favorites. But while it's always fun to look ahead to who'll be left standing after four rounds, some teams have more immediate concerns. As the season winds down, it appears that we have nine teams fighting for the four final playoff spots.

The Western Conference features six teams fighting for three spots, including the third seed that will go to whoever wins the turtle derby in the Pacific Division. And in the East, we're essentially looking at three teams fighting for the eighth and final spot.

So which four teams will find a way to claim the final spots and sneak into the post-season, and which five will fall just short? Here's a look at the teams that find themselves on the playoff bubble in the season's final weeks.

Calgary Flames

Reason for optimism: Junior sensation Sven Baertschi could potentially return to the roster if a veteran player happened to be injured, if the over-sized anvil dangling from a frayed rope over Lee Stempniak's locker is any indication.
Possible bad sign: They'd be overwhelming underdogs in a first-round matchup with the St. Louis Blues, at least if you believe that old hockey adage that "When in doubt, always pick the team that actually retired Al MacInnis's number instead of just honouring it".

Washington Capitals

Reason for optimism: As the current eighth seed will have to find a way to make sure that an opponent doesn't sneak up and get them from behind, meaning they've finally found a subject where they can learn something from Dale Hunter.
Possible bad sign: Alexander Ovechkin has admitted that while he initially didn't mind hearing Jets fans chant "Crosby's better" at him on Saturday, it did kind of hurt when we found out afterwards that the Crosby they were referring to was Bing.

Phoenix Coyotes

Reason for optimism: Ownership is so confident in the team's chances that they've already got a detailed parade route hanging in the board room at team headquarters.
Possible bad sign: Well, we're assuming it was a parade route, although come to think of it maybe it was kind of odd that it starts in Glendale and winds up in Seattle.

Dallas Stars

Reason for optimism: Yes, the winner of the Pacific division really does get a playoff spot no matter what, says Gary Bettman wearily while reminding the Stars that they don't actually have to call him about this every single day.
Possible bad sign: The fact that they don't have a single top-tier player who is currently injured has been somewhat countered by the fact that they also don't have a single top-tier player who is currently healthy.

Colorado Avalanche

Reason for optimism: The Avalanche actually have a history of making deep playoff runs and even winning Stanley Cups, say the team's core of young players, at least according to what Crazy Old Man Hejduk keeps ranting about over in the corner.
Possible bad sign: Have one of the most difficult remaining schedules of any team, in the sense that they are not scheduled to play any games against the Colorado Avalanche.

San Jose Sharks

Reason for optimism: Were unanimously picked as a slam dunk playoff team by every hockey expert in the world before the season started, and those guys are never wrong!
Possible bad sign: The coaching staff is starting to rethink their strategy of papering the dressing room with all those motivational "This is the year we don't choke in the playoffs" posters.

Buffalo Sabres

Reason for optimism: The team has been motivated by the knowledge that if they can't make a run with their current roster right now, they'll only have another eight or nine chances before all their front-loaded contracts start running out.
Possible bad sign: While they'd normally be encouraged by the sight of devoted supporters loudly cheering them on in their quest for the eighth playoff seed, they admit they'd feel even better if those cheers weren't coming from members of the first place New York Rangers watching the highlights each night.

Los Angeles Kings

Reason for optimism: After being encouraged by the coaching staff to at least give it a try to see if they liked it, the team admitted that their recent experience of scoring a goal was actually kind of fun and they may even be willing to do it again before the end of the season.
Possible bad sign: Opponents have figured out that you can neutralize Jeff Carter completely right off the opening faceoff if you just wander over to him casually mutter "Hey, I bet the Blue Jackets are going to ask for a first-liner back when they trade Rick Nash to the Kings in the off-season".

Winnipeg Jets

Reason for optimism: Their return to the NHL has been the feel-good story of the season, so they can expect to have millions of hockey fans all across Canada passionately cheering them on in their quest for a playoff spot.
Possible bad sign: If the Maple Leafs are any indication, that means they're screwed.


  1. Very good, I liked the one about Hejduk.

  2. LOLLL at the Carter joke! I'm literally laughing out loud.

  3. From what I've heard Sutter's attempted to address that issue with Carter, but strangely his reassurances of "don't worry, it's not you, they'll just want Richards" haven't helped.

  4. Jets joke -- very funny!

  5. "David Crosby" makes for a funnier line than "Bing Crosby."

  6. No more genius one liners beneath the photo? Those things were what I always looked forward to seeing before...

    1. The picture captions are why I read this online instead of in the paper (the paper doesn't have them)

  7. The Caps, Reason for optimism was great!!!! Well, wasn't for Turgeon, Ouch

  8. DGB, the lack of photo captions lately is almost as devastating as this Leafs season! Whats up with that?

  9. I have determined that Jeff Carter is good at two things:

    1. Being a spectacular decoy on 2-on-1s

    2. Scoring empty net goals.

    However, since those two roles usually double the Kings' expected offensive output, that's worth it.

  10. Carter deserves to get traded back to Columbus for Nash. Poetic justice at it's finest!

  11. The San Jose one was gold!

    1. not if you're a Sharks fan...