Can Golden Knights avoid disastrous playoff miss?

Vegas Golden Knights defenceman Noah Hanifin, left, and right wing Anthony Mantha, right, prepare for a faceoff during an NHL hockey game against the Seattle Kraken Tuesday, March 12, 2024, in Seattle. (Maddy Grassy/AP)

Much in the way humans removed themselves from the food chain, five Western Conference teams have all but exited any kind of race for the playoffs. Vancouver, Colorado, Winnipeg, Dallas and Edmonton are straight up in at this point, despite it not yet being mathematically official. All that’s left is jockeying for seeding at the top of the Central (which will be fun to watch) and to check in on the Oilers at times to see if they’ve won or lost a half-dozen straight, both of which are eminently possible at any given time with that club.

That leaves us with two or three teams very likely to get in and a chase pack of four teams who would basically need everything to go right for their Hail Mary attempts to end in touchdowns.

Y’know, things like pulling the goalie in overtime … long-shot stuff like that.

Here’s the way the standings look today, with commentary on those in the fight below. If you missed my review of the East races, you can find that here.

(Note: for “playoff odds” I’ve chosen two sources I trust, Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic and Micah Blake McCurdy of HockeyViz. Both models use a variety of factors including strength of remaining schedule to calculate their odds.)


Playoff Odds
The Athletic: 94%
HockeyViz: 90.7%

Where they’re at: The Kings haven’t exactly been red hot, but they’re a solidly built team who’s got one of the easiest remaining schedules. In the next month they’ll see the Blackhawks three times, the Ducks twice, the Sharks, and just six games against teams currently in a playoff spot.

With both models giveing them more than a 90 per cent chance of making it, you can bank on it happening.


The Athletic: 90%
HockeyViz: 80.3%

Where they’re at: As I noted last week, Micah’s model at HockeyViz tends to be a little more cautious about drawing hard conclusions about teams being all the way in or out. But regardless where they sit in that 80-90 per cent probability range, it’s impossible, unfathomable even, to see the team that just went so hard all-in at the deadline — the defending Stanley Cup champions, I might add — missing the playoffs.

They won’t, they just won’t.

And so, we’ll watch to see if they play their way into the 2-3 seed series vs. the Oilers, or if they end up being just a brutal draw for some unlucky one-seed out there.


The Athletic: 92%
HockeyViz: 87.7%

Where they’re at: Andrew Brunette deserves way more credit for the Nashville Predators still being playoff relevant right now. I don’t think anyone looked at their roster and considered them playoff likely a few months ago, but here they are with points in 13 straight games, very likely to get in.

They play fast and organized, and while they lack elite talent, they get great goaltending. It’s not impossible to see the wheels coming off after this crazy run, but it’s a lot more likely they fall back to being a “pretty good” team, make the playoffs, and make life a massive pain for some No. 1 seed just hoping to skate by a first-round series.


The Athletic: 16%
HockeyViz: 17.9%

Where they’re at: Maybe some thought the Wild’s decision to pull the goalie in overtime was unnecessarily aggressive, but they’re at the point where, if they get in to the playoffs, it could well be by that one measly point. And they’re alive, and they’re fighting.

They have a soft remaining schedule and some other models have their chances higher than listed above (MoneyPuck, for example, has them at 23.9 per cent).

If they win their way in, battling in March and April, with Marc-André Fleury in net, an elite scorer in Kirill Kaprizov, and a Selke-level guy in Joel Eriksson Ek, I’m not sure they’d be a first-round cake-walk either.


The Athletic: 3%
HockeyViz: 8%

Where they’re at: The models aren’t very big believers in the Blues, and I’m not either. It’s tough to look at them and talk yourself into them the way I just did Nashville and Minnesota. I like Robert Thomas a lot — he might be a better answer to “most underrated player” than a well-rated guy like Florida’s Aleksander Barkov — but beyond that they’re just light elite talent right now.

Tough to see this one happening.


The Athletic: 3%
HockeyViz: 8.3%

Where they’re at: The Flames have the second-easiest schedule remaining in the NHL, but it just seems they’ve had the soul torn out of their team with trades over the past month. They’ve been defiant and scrappy, but I’m just not sure there’s enough horses there to drag the cart across the finish line at this point. But they should feel good about their coaching, their effort, and the pieces they have in place, which isn’t a bad way to enter the off-season.

And if they do scrap their way in, ho-ly would that be a Jack Adams-worthy ascension.

And finally…


The Athletic: 4%
HockeyViz: 7.4%

Where they’re at: Seattle has a couple things going for them: One, the easiest schedule remaining in the league, as noted here. But also, they really do play a good brand of defensive hockey. They’re top-10 in expected-goals-against via SportLogiq. A run of hot shooting luck — as can happen against soft teams, which they play — could see them suddenly win a bunch of games, which they’ve already done once before.

Do they have another big winning streak in them?

All told, the playoff race in the West feels less wide open than the mess in the East. But it’s been a year of streaks, and there’s still a few teams in both divisions who could get hot (or the opposite, à la Detroit), and change the shape of the playoff picture.

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