For the better part of six weeks, eleven teams in the Western Conference have been competing for only eight playoff spots. 27 points separates the top team in the conference from the final team in playoff contention. Since the new conferences were formed in the 1993-94 season, the race for the playoffs in the West has never been tighter.
There is so much energy in the two wild card positions that it seems as if every single night a new set of teams are in the wild card spots. Each game in the Western Conference has an extremely large effect on the playoff picture as a whole.
For example, on the evening of March 24th the Anaheim Ducks did not play a game. However, due to Colorado’s shootout win over Vegas, the Ducks fell from the first wild card position to the second. Then, the Ducks went from the second wild card spot to out of a playoff position because of St. Louis’s win over Columbus but after all of that the Ducks jumped all of the way up to third in the Pacific Division because of the Kings loss to the Oilers.
All of that position shifting even though the Ducks didn’t even play a game. When at least two points are being handed out every game, a lot of position shifting seems to go on. The Ducks, Avalanche, Blues, Kings and Stars have been leap-frogging each other constantly and it has fogged the playoff picture quite a bit.
When it comes down to it, one very competitive team is going to be barred from the playoffs and this will most likely be because of one point. These races can be fun and make the playoff picture relatively unknown until the 82nd game of the season. Nothing except the top two positions in each division is set and this creates a very entertaining situation.
As the playoff picture comes closer and closer together, these Western Conference games are becoming more and more crucial. Every night can create or destroy playoff dreams as we inch towards the end of the season and for each one of these teams and their fans, this is both their best dream and worst nightmare.
It looks like we are going to have to wait until the last day of the season to find out who will be representing the West in the playoffs.