With the West now officially all sewn up — the Hawks will start at least the first three series on West Madison — let’s take a look at who is going to show up here for Game 1 on April 30 or May 1 (or later maybe, these schedules can get silly).
There are up to six teams that could land in the 8th seed, and they break evenly into two groups of three. One group being the longshots to end up in 8th, either being unlikely to fall there or unlikely to climb there. And the other are the three who are likely to be there. The first group contains St. Louis, Minnesota, and Phoenix. The second group is Detroit, Columbus, and Dallas.
Let’s look at each, and see what would be the best matchup (as if I’m going to pretend it’s not Dallas).
Minnehaha – Current Position: 6th (51 points) – Chance of 8th: 7%
Remaining Schedule: at Sharks, vs. Flames, vs. Kings, vs. Oilers, at Avs
St. Louis has a game in hand on them, and you kind of expect a ho-hum finish for the Wild here. At the Sharks is tough, and it’ll depend on how much the Kings care in the last week (though they’ll probably want to cinch up home-ice in the first round at least). Their division games should be swept aside, seeing as how two are at home. In the three games with the Hawks, they’ve managed one shootout win, but the last two (5-3 and 1-0 wins for the Hawks) were not as close as they looked. The Wild come with some star power in Parise, Pominville, and Koivu, with the potential for Cullen or one or two others turning into playoff heroes. But it feels like 7th seed where they’ll end up.
Projected Finish: 6-7 more points, 57-58 points.
Fear Level: 4:There’s a scary top line, and Ryan Suter. But Backstrom isn’t the type to win a series by himself, and the depth gets awfully thin awfully fast at both forward and defense.
Scum Jr: Current Position – 7th (50 points) – Chance of 8th: 5%
Remaining Schedule: vs. Coyotes, vs. Stars, at Avs, vs. Avs, vs. Flames, vs. Hawks
The Blues are going to have to well out of their way to fuck up wrestling sixth away from the Wild. They have a game in hand, and they don’t face anyone in the playoff picture currently (until the Hawks in the last game that will probably be a dead rubber) and have all but one game at home. In fact, they may have a decent shot at getting 5th from the Sharks or the Kings if either collapse. As far as how they match up with the Hawks, while most of the fear has subsided in a deluge of Blues stupidity and childishness, there’s still the worry of their defensive and physical game wreaking havoc. But more likely, they’re headed for Vancouver or L.A. for their Game 1, and no one here is going to complain about that.
Projected Finish: 9-11 more points, 59-61 points
Fear Level: 6.5: Don’t have to worry about it for a bit though, if at all. This schedule is just too easy for them to drop too far, and they even have room for one clunker. The game between the Hawks and them on the last day of the season probably won’t matter for each team. But a first round date with either the Kings and Canucks will be challenge enough, and I doubt they’d be favored in either. So at least one problem will be going away for the Hawks without having to do anything.
Columbus: Current Position – 8th (49 points) – Chance of 8th: 30%
Remaining Schedule: at Kings, at Sharks, at Stars, vs. Preds
The Jackets are a wonderful story, but it’s still going to be a very steep climb for them. They have to wheel around tonight after their dramatic win in Anaheim to face the ornery Kings, and that’s a tough go. The Sharks are always a challenge in San Jose. That Dallas game is shaping up as pretty huge, and might be the Stars’ last throw of the dice. Then there’s the whiffle-ball Preds to wrap it up. The Jackets would love to bring it down to that game.
Projected Finish: 4 more points – 53 total
Fear Factor: 5 I saw everyone’s knees starting to shake about meeting the Jackets last night after they won, and I don’t understand why. I mean I understand the ghosts of Jon Casey and Curtis Joseph still lurk in our mental closets of nightmares past. And they’ve played the Hawks tough. But they haven’t won any of them. They’ve scored five goals in four games. Yeah, they have a hot goalie. But you’ve seen Bobrovsky in the playoffs before. It was a Dali painting. And James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson still skate the most minutes on the blue line. Bob might steal one game. He’s not going to steal four.
Scum: Current Position – 9th (47 points) – Chance of 8th: 31%
Remaining Schedule: at Canucks, vs. Coyotes, vs. Kings, vs. Predators, at Dallas
If you didn’t catch the Wings’ loss to the Flames last night, you missed comedy on the level of Dr. Strangelove. While the default position on Scum is to be pretty sure that they’ll come out of this, there’s something definitely wrong here. There’s hardly the positive feelings that you get in Columbus or Dallas, who aren’t supposed to be here and are playing like they don’t have a care in the world. Detroit is also not supposed to be here, but this is definitely Dante from Clerks not supposed to be here. Still, the schedule opens up for them, and they do have a game in hand and the tiebreaker on the Jackets.
Projected Finish: 6-8 points, 53-55 points
Fear Factor: 4.5 I’m sure Wings fans would point out that they have pushed the Hawks to OT three times in four games. What. Ever. Two of those came in extremely busy stretches for a tired Hawks team, and in every game the Hawks had long stretches where they could do whatever they want. Yeah, Dats and Z are still here, Franzen could wake up. But the defense just sucks, there’s no way around it. And whatever his contract extension might say, Jimmy Howard is not winning a series by himself.
Dallas: Current Position: 10th (45 points) – Chance of 8th: 17%
remaining schedule: vs. Canucks, at Blues, at Kings, at Sharks, vs. Jackets, vs. Wings
As entertaining as the television would be if it came down to that last game against Scum, you look at these next four games for the Stars and it’s hard to see a way through. Can they even win two of those? That would be minimum requirement, and then sweeping the last two home games, which would only get them to 53 and that might not be enough. And there’s just not enough about them. Bachman’s bubble was burst by the Hawks. Lehtonen may come back but is he really the carry-a-team type? There’s Jamie Been, Ray Whitney, Loui Eriksson and….what, exactly? You just can’t see it.
Projected Finish: 5 points, 50 total
Fear Factor: 2 The only fear is that they won’t get 8th. If they do, this would just about be the easiest matchup for the Hawks. What do you fear about them?
Phoenix: Current position: 11th (43 points) – Chance of 8th: 3%
remaining schedule: at Blues, at Hawks, at Wings, vs. Avs, vs. Sharks, at Ducks
Forget it. They pretty much have to run the table here, and they’re not going to, especially with Mike Smith hurt again.
Projected Finish: 6 points – 49 total
Fear Factor: 1 Only because they’re not going to make it. If they did sneak in, it goes up as we know Smith is capable of stealing a series. Though he hasn’t looked like that guy this year. But still, Dave Tippett will always clown Q in a series. But you don’t have to worry about it.
After writing all this out, it’s looking like Detroit. As we thought it would two weeks ago. Bring it.