The Nashville Predators entered this past weekend with their playoff magic number at four points.
That means the Preds needed either four points gained by themselves or four points lost by the Vegas Golden Knights in order to clinch the playoffs. But due to one below average performance in Tampa and one overtime loss at home to Minnesota, they still have not done so.
Fortunately for the Preds, the San Jose Sharks mounted a furious comeback on Sunday night against the Golden Knights, helping bring the Preds’ magic number down to two.
Last night, the Sharks were down 4-2 to the Golden Knights with just over two minutes remaining. Then, amazingly, the Sharks tied it up. Former Preds center Nick Bonino made it 4-3, then Timo Meier tied the game with less than one second remaining.
In the shootout, the Sharks came out on top, preventing Vegas from getting that all important extra point. According to MoneyPuck, the Golden Knights had a 99.9% chance of winning the game, but still lost. They now find their playoff chances down to only 17%.
The Preds’ playoff chances meanwhile jump to 98.2%, despite not holding onto a 3-2 lead against Minnesota last night. Ryan Johansen’s 24th goal of the season put the Preds up 3-2 with just over six minutes left in the 2nd period. But Minnesota mounted their own comeback, scoring twice in the final two minutes of that period to go up 4-3.
Dante Fabbro’s deflected goal from the blueline tied the game for Nashville with six minutes left in the game, eventually sending the game to overtime. But the Wild found a last second goal of their own, with Dimitry Kulikov scoring the game winner with less than two seconds left in overtime.
That single point gained over the weekend, combined with the Sharks stealing a point from the Golden Knights last night, means the Preds’ magic number is down to only two.
Playoff picture is clear for Preds
With the magic number at two, the Preds’ playoff picture is pretty clear. They need two points this week, either in points gained by their own performance or in points lost by Vegas, but it’s important to point out: those two points must come via regulation win and/or regulation loss by Vegas.
This is because Vegas could still technically own the 1st tiebreak (regulation wins) so the Preds need one more regulation win to clinch it. The Preds have 35 regulation wins, the Golden Knights have 33. If the Preds were to gain only two points by shootout or overtime win this week, and the Golden Knights were to win out in regulation, the Preds would be eliminated.
But if the Preds win one game in regulation or earn three points this week on their own, they clinch the playoffs.
Here’s the Preds’ schedule the rest of the way:
- Tuesday vs. Calgary (home; 7 p.m.)
- Thursday @ Colorado (away; 8 p.m.)
- Friday @ Arizona (away; 9:30 p.m.)
Perhaps the easiest path for the Preds to clinch is to beat Calgary at home in regulation tomorrow. They could also clinch in Colorado or Arizona, with Arizona seemingly the most likely between the two. But don’t forget the Avalanche will likely be resting some players on Thursday. They won’t be as motivated to win that game, as they can’t change their playoff position: they are locked into the top spot in the Western Conference.
There’s also a possibility that the Preds have the playoffs locked up without beating Calgary in regulation and before they even head to Colorado. Here’s the Vegas Golden Knights schedule:
- Tuesday @ Dallas (away; 7:30 p.m.)
- Wednesday @ Chicago (away; 7:30 p.m.)
- Friday @ St. Louis (away; 7:00 p.m.)
If the Golden Knights lose in regulation to Dallas, the Preds clinch the playoffs regardless of what they do against Calgary.
Then it’s just a matter of seeding, which is where the next magic number comes in.
Preds’ playoff seeding possibilities
The Preds’ magic number to clinch the top Wild Card spot is at five. They need five points either in points gained themselves or in points lost by Dallas. Here’s the Dallas Stars remaining schedule:
- Tuesday vs Vegas (home; 7:30 p.m.)
- Wednesday vs Arizona (home; 7:30 p.m.)
- Friday vs Anaheim (home; 7:30 p.m.)
The Stars’ remaining schedule is considerably easier than the Preds’ and Golden Knights’. Three home games against three beatable opponents, two of which aren’t even in the playoff picture.
However, the Preds still control their own destiny. If they earn five points via some combination of wins or overtime losses this week, they clinch the top wild card spot.
Why is this important?
Because the Preds would likely much prefer to play the Calgary Flames in the first round than the Colorado Avalanche. The Flames are a better matchup for the Preds, and also this would stick the Preds in the West Coast bracket, should they move on past the first round.
Avoiding Colorado, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Dallas in both the first and second round of the playoffs would be ideal.
The fact that Dallas plays Vegas on Tuesday makes this final week that much more interesting. Do Preds fans root for Dallas to beat Vegas, clinching the playoffs for them? Or do they hope Vegas topples Dallas, making the top wild card spot a bit easier to obtain?
Bottom line, things would all be easier for the Preds if they just beat Calgary in regulation on Tuesday. Then the playoffs are clinched and they would need only three more points the rest of the week to clinch the top wild card.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —