Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.
The Darius Rucker-ish gentleman on the right celebrated a Montreal Canadiens goal last night by literally sucking on the glass in front of him as the Habs celebrated, looking very much like a hungry goldfish. You can actually see the little white line of condensation or spittle left behind. It was pretty gross.
Now, you might expect this dude would feel a little embarrassed after Montreal lost to Ottawa, 3-2, in a critical home game.
But even with that loss, our front-row blowfish may still fog the glass in the playoffs: The Canadiens' overall probability for the playoffs dropped just 2.1 percent to 96.4 percent last night. According to Sports Club Stats, the Habs will clinch a playoff spot if they defeat the New York Rangers tonight.
What if the Rangers lose and the Florida Panthers defeat the Philadelphia Flyers? What if the St. Louis Blues stumble against the Phoenix Coyotes and the Nashville Predators upend the Chicago Blackhawks? What if the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres still actually had a chance in hell of making the playoffs?
The following Western Conference playoff picture is painted by the invaluable resources from Sports Club Stats, which offers percentage probabilities for teams, and NHL Playoff Race, which provides the "tragic numbers" (the amount of points gained by the eight seed and/or lost by a team chasing it) for teams.
For the West:
% Chance of 7th
% Chance of 8th
St. Louis Blues
Nothing changed last night for the teams still alive at the bottom of the conference standings, as the Calgary Flames' 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings gave them a 77-percent chance of winning the Northwest Division.
Tonight ... well, everything can change. Without factoring in other action, the Blues increase their playoff probability to 74.4 percent overall with a win over Phoenix; it drops to 32.9 with a loss. The Predators increase theirs to 64.1 percent with a win over Chicago; it drops to 24.7 percent with a loss.
The Predators are in the hot seat tonight for one reason: The Detroit Red Wings. The Blues play Columbus at home before visiting Colorado in the last game of the season. The Predators have to go to the Joe and visit the Minnesota Wild to end the season. Beating Chicago on home ice is just about essential.
The Wild and Oilers both still have a heartbeat, faint as it is. A loss to Dallas drops Minnesota's overall probability to 0.5 percent, pending other results. The Oilers could see their probability drop to a statistical flat-line of 0.00; when your playoff probability reads like Bluto Blutarsky's grade point average at Faber College in 1962, your season's about done.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference:
% Chance of 7th
% Chance of 8th
New York Rangers
The story of Hanukah ... the real Santa Claus appearing a Macy's ... Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks ... really, pick your miracle, and the Buffalo Sabres pretty much need it.
The Buffalo News explains the aftermath of the Sabres' loss to the Red Wings:
"A lot of strange things have happened," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We'll pick up the hope tank, try to fill it up and hope a lot of things go right for us."
Things are so dire, the hope tank needs to be large enough to house all the crumbling debris from Memorial Auditorium. In basic terms, if the Rangers or Panthers win just one of their three games and go to overtime in another, the Sabres are officially eliminated.
Not to put too fine a point on it: There's a better chance the St. Louis Blues drop all the way down to 11th in the West (3 percent) than the Sabres getting the eight seed (2 percent). Yikes.
Meanwhile, in the land of the living, the Panthers and Rangers continue their battle this evening. A win by the Rangers over the Canadiens increases their probability for making the postseason to 73.7; a loss drops it down to 33.8.
The Panthers visit the Flyers tonight, and with a win would increase their postseason chances to 67.6 percent. A loss would drop them down to 29.1 percent.
Now, these probabilities could be seriously knocked around with a charity point from either the Panthers or the Rangers, depending on what the other does. For example, the Rangers are technically still in the driver's seat with 40 wins to the Panthers' 39. But if they lose in regulation, and the Panthers lose in overtime but earn a point ... suddenly, wins are a lot less critical.
Just another day in the vortex of death.