Saturday is the final day of the 2011-12 regular season, with all 30 teams playing their 82nd game of the year, including the Canucks, who host the Oilers. There’s still much to be decided. The 16 organizations heading to the first round of the postseason have all been established, but in many cases the clubs they’ll be meeting there have not.
This is especially true in the Western Conference, where zero of the 8 playoffs teams have clinched their seeding. Try to make sense of this: The Canucks currently sit in 1st, but they can still be passed by the 2nd place St. Louis Blues. The Phoenix Coyotes are holding down the Pacific Division lead and the automatic 3rd seed that comes with it, but with a loss, they can be overtaken by the winner of the Sharks and Kings’ Saturday evening affair. (Meanwhile, the loser of that game will finish 8th.) The Nashville Predators are in 4th, but they can still be passed by the 5th place Detroit Red Wings, who can still be passed by the 6th place Chicago Blackhawks. Still with me?
Normally, in cases like this, you could put on your fan blinders and avoid the confusion altogether, but simply focusing on what’s at stake for the home team will still yield a dizzying mess. Thankfully, PITB is here to help. Here’s a guide to what you, the Canuck fan, need to know about Saturday.
1) The Presidents’ Trophy race.
The Canucks enter Saturday’s action tied with the New York Rangers atop the NHL. However, the Rangers officially hold top spot by virtue of having more non-shootout wins. (Hey, remember when the Canucks were bad at shootouts and everyone was mad about it? Yeah, well, this year they’ve been good at shootouts and it could cost them. Irony.)
Basically, this means that the Canucks need the Rangers to lose to the Washington Capitals in order to have a chance to finish the night a point ahead of them. The odds aren’t in the Canucks’ favour, but the Capitals can still clinch the Southeast Division title with a win and a Florida Panthers’ regulation loss, so they’ll be motivated to beat their rivals from New York.
For what it’s worth, don’t lament the Presidents’ trophy if the Rangers win it. In the last 20 years, the number one seeds from the East and West have met in the Stanley Cup Final one time (2001). In short, if the Canucks win the Western Conference title and then make the Final, the likelihood of meeting the Rangers, the only team that would have home ice advantage over them, is quite slim.
2) The Western Conference title.
This is much more attainable; Vancouver doesn’t even have to win to win it. They have 109 points to St. Louis’s 107. In short, If the Blues lose to the Stars — a distinct possibility since St. Louis has lost 4 straight, the Canucks win regardless of what happens in their game. The only way the Canucks can lose the Western Conference title is by losing to the Edmonton Oilers in regulation while the St. Louis Blues gain 2 points by any means. Since the Blues hold the tiebreaker (again, non-shootout wins), they would win the West in this instance.
But man, if the Canucks don’t win the West, things get really weird.
3) The Canucks’ first round playoff opponent.
This is some confounding stuff right here.
It’s simplest if the Canucks gain a point. In that case, they finish 1st in the West and play the loser of the Sharks/Kings match, guaranteed to finish 8th.
If, however, the Canucks are passed by the Blues and slip to 2nd, they can play any one of the Sharks, Kings, or Coyotes. Remember that the Sharks and Kings play each other, while the Coyotes play the Minnesota Wild. Here are your possibilities:
The Canucks will play the Coyotes if…
The Canucks will play the Kings if…
The Canucks will play the Sharks if…
Good grief. Maybe just go bowling or something and we’ll call you on Sunday.Tags: guides to things, making sense, man i hope my math is right, playoffs, Presidents' Trophy, western conference title