Oh, the joys of clinching a division title early.
It’s an envious position the Golden Knights find themselves in. They already know their immediate playoff future — they’re guaranteed to host the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, should Vegas get to the second round.
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Western Conference playoff picture is coming into form, but a lot can happen in these final days. For example, Vegas still doesn’t know who it’s facing in the first round and that answer won’t be solidified until, probably, Saturday.
There’s even a puncher’s chance the Golden Knights can clinch the top seed in the Western Conference. It’s more like a last-gasp punch in the 11th round of a heavyweight boxing fight that’s probably going to miss, but mathematically, the dream still lives and the dead horse still needs to be beaten.
Vegas, in Edmonton tonight to take on the Oilers, has nothing to play for until Game 1 next week, but this is far from being sorted out.
Vegas still in play for Western Conference’s top seed
This would require the Nashville Predators to forget where they’re playing the next two games. Until Nashville locks up one more point, the door is still open for the Golden Knights to grab home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
Nashville has one road game (at Washington on Thursday) and one home (hosting Columbus) to close the regular season. The Capitals clinched the Metropolitan Division on Monday and really have nothing else to play for. If Washington wins, the Predators need to deal with a Columbus team that is still looking to wrap up a playoff spot. The Blue Jackets lead the Devils (one point) and the Flyers (two points) for third in the Metro.
Two Nashville losses, with two Vegas wins, gives the Golden Knights (47) the regulation-plus-overtime wins tiebreaker over the Predators (45). That leaves the Winnipeg Jets needing to lose one of their final two games (both home against Calgary and Chicago) in order for Vegas to clinch.
Vegas would need one win in regulation or overtime to hold the tiebreaker over Winnipeg and Nashville, should all three finish with 113 points. Winnipeg, at 110 points, can clinch first in the West with two wins and two Nashville losses.
The rest of the Pacific Division is still weird
Raise your hand if you had three California teams and one Nevada team comprising of the Pacific Division’s playoff field. Put your hands down because you’re all liars.
Which team would you rather see the Golden Knights play in the first round?
This poll is closed
Los Angeles Kings
St. Louis Blues
Vegas, of course, are champions of said division. If the playoffs started today, the Golden Knights would host the first wild card in the first round. That title is held by the Los Angeles Kings at 96 points. They trail the Anaheim Ducks (who clinched a playoff spot Wednesday) by one point, and the suddenly-cold San Jose Sharks by two points for third and second in the Pacific, respectively.
Here’s the remaining games for those three teams:
San Jose Sharks
Los Angeles Kings
- Host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday
- Host the Dallas Stars on Saturday
Barring any crazy drop-offs, Vegas is probably making the trip to California for the first two rounds. The Colorado Avalanche, who hold the second wild card by a point over the St. Louis Blues, can still draw Vegas in the first round if they win their final two games against San Jose and St. Louis and Los Angeles loses both of its games.
By the way, that St. Louis-Colorado game on Saturday? Yes, please.
All of a sudden, the race between the three California teams got a lot more intriguing. San Jose could go from hosting a first-round series to either playing the first two games in Anaheim or L.A. Not that it makes any difference logistically, but that eight-game winning streak seems so long ago.