Snap Shots

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1) The Minnesota Wild have been charging up the WC standings and, for the first time this season are now in a playoff position.You may recall I have been saying for months that the Wild should not be overlooked given they outshoot their opposition by an average of almost 5 shots per game. They were sewered early in the season by dreadful goaltending but, now that Devan Dubnyk has been providing them with .925 goaltending, they are 8-1-1 in their last 10 with a guaranteed win against the Edmonton Oilers up next. The Wild are only 6 points back of Chicago in the Central Division and hold a game in hand so this is going to get very interesting.

2) It appears Winnipeg and Calgary are going to duke it out for the final wildcard spot in the WC. It’s unfortunate since I think it would do the game a whole lot of good if both teams made it.

3) Was just glancing at how teams fared against the dominant WC. The Edmonton Oilers have played 36 games against the west. They’ve won 4 and lost 32. That gives us a pretty good idea of how far they are from becoming a playoff team in the west.

4) It appears those writing off the Sedins as a spent force in Vancouver may have to eat some crow. Henrik Sedin is currently in 11th place in scoring among centres while brother Daniel is currently in 7th spot among LW’s.

5) A personal favourite on mine in the rookie of the year race just keeps impressing. Dallas Stars rookie D John Klingberg who has 10G and 32P in only 46 games played. Projected over a full 82 game season that would be 57 points. Also worth noting is that Klingberg has passed Aaron Ekblad  (who is having a phenomenal seasons as an 18 year old) in points.

6) Vancouver rookie Bo Horvat is impressing more and more every day. Despite playing 4th line minutes, Horvat has 9G and 18P. His P/60 5V5 of 1.99 is much better than players like Nathan MacKinnon (1.92) Nazem Kadri (1.82) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1.77). It’ll be interesting to see how he does with more minutes against tougher competition but it appears he is NHL ready.

7) Horvat is starting to make the Corey Schneider trade to the Devils look like a win-win. Schneider has been very good in NJ with a .926 save percentage behind a bad team and posted another shutout tonight against Arizona. Vancouver goalie Ryan Miller is out with a knee problem so Eddie Lack (.917) will be getting more starts and the Canucks have called up Jacob Markstrom from the AHL where he has been phenomenal (.932). Hard to imagine that, in a very short time after moving two of the best goalies in the NHL, the Canucks now have 3 who appear to be NHL calibre.

8) Not much new to report in the Great Tank Battle. Carolina will likely pass the Leafs and the Oilers may pass the Coyotes. This seems reasonable:

1) Buffalo

2) Arizona

3) Edmonton

4) Toronto

9) The season ticket drive in Las Vegas has reached 70 percent of its goal so it appears very, very likely that Sin City will be joining the league in 2016/17.

10) Just a hunch…but keep an eye on the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline. If they can find a couple of players who can help now and in the future, I think you may see them add a forward and a defenseman. A deal for Keith Yandle wouldn’t surprise me. Calgary has the assets and the cap space to get this done.

Handicapping the Playoff Races

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The playoff race in the EC is all but over. The Florida Panthers could still track down the Boston Bruins for the last wild card spot so there is that.

But in the WC, things are much more interesting.

As of this writing, 6 teams are still in the running for the final 4 spots in the playoffs.

Let’s take a look at their chances.

Vancouver would appear to be in the catbird seat with 65 points in 55GP and they have games in hand over San Jose (3), Winnipeg (2) and Calgary (1). They also hold the tie breaker of regulation wins (29) over Calgary (28), San Jose (27), Minnesota (26), Winnipeg (24), Los Angeles (24) and Dallas (24).

But…the Canucks are down two of their top 4 defensemen in Edler and Bieksa and may find it difficult to win without them.

Those Stazis discount “momentum” but, believe me, confidence plays a huge part in the performance of sports teams and the Minnesota Wild are on a huge roll.

Buoyed by the goaltending of Devan Dubnyk (who could have seen that coming) the Wild are 8-0-2 in their last 10 games and may overtake the Winnipeg Jets in the Central Division.

Winnipeg has a 5 point lead but Minnesota has 3 games in hand and could close that gap pretty quickly.

The 4 Pacific teams vying for a post season berth, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary and Los Angeles are within 4 points of each other and all are playing around .500 hockey in their last 10 GP.

If forced to make a wager right now, I would go with this for the top 8 teams in the WC:

1) NSH

2) STL

3) ANA

4) CHI

5) CAL

6) MIN

7) VCR

8) WPG

Wow. The 1st round of the playoffs should be epic.