Sharks try to top Blues for the first time this season, gain ground in the playoff race



7:30 PST
40-18-7, 87 points 33-23-7, 73 points
4th in Western Conference
7th in Western Conference
98.5 KFOX,
St. Louis Gametime
Post Dispatch

With San Jose currently sitting in tenuous playoff position right now, 7th in the Western Conference and 3-6-1 in their last ten games played, it only makes sense that nerves are getting a little frayed around here.

It sure doesn't help matters with the St. Louis Blues, who are 3-0 against our 心爱的鲨鱼 this season, rolling into town.

And it sure doesn't help matters that you had to go to Google translate to figure what I just said either, but that's how we're going to play this one.

At any rate, today I wanted to break down the handful of teams fighting for those final playoff positions in the Western Conference. The Blues of course won't be on it, as they've all but locked up a top five seed depending upon how the Central Division plays out, but they do provide a good barometer considering just how strong their underlying numbers have been throughout the season.

What we're looking at right now is seven teams-- Phoenix, Chicago, San Jose, Dallas, Los Angeles, Colorado, and Calgary-- and how their chances are shaping up based off some underlying numbers. Four of these teams will make the playoffs (unless Anaheim or Minnesota makes an unlikely run), with one of them winning the Pacific division.

The numbers are current points per game pace, goal differential, Fenwick Tied numbers, and PDO. As a reminder, a low PDO number is a "good" thing as it regresses quite heavily to the mean of 1000-- more information on the subject can be found here.

Western Predicted Final Standings

Rank Team GP Points/GP Goal Dif.
Fenwick Tied
3 Phoenix Coyotes 64 96.1 +8 49.36 1011
6 Chicago Blackhawks 66 95.6 +6 52.35 998
7 San Jose Sharks 63 95.0 +18 52.88 995
8 Dallas Stars
65 92.1 -5 50.89 1002
9 Los Angeles Kings
64 89.7 +1 53.22 987
10 Colorado Avalanche
65 88.3 -7 48.13 990
11 Calgary Flames
65 87.0 -21 46.87 1003

  • I understand I've been saying this all season so I have some skin in the game here, but Los Angeles is truly a good team that has been snakebit like hell by the percentages on the offensive side of the puck pretty much all year. I find it very difficult to imagine a team with these kinds of underlying numbers misses out on the playoffs. The trade for Jeff Carter solidifies that notion.
  • In other words, a team who is 11th in shots but 30th in goals deserves a better fate than what they've been given, especially considering how well they control the play at even strength with the game tied (5th in the League). Their PDO is low by default. Maybe it is a case of poor shot selection and a lack of scoring chances, but I think that narrative is probably bunk.
  • In other words, I think Los Angeles is really in the hunt for the Pacific Division title and around game 75 we're going to be talking about them instead of Phoenix.
  • Speaking of Phoenix, how phenomenal is Dave Tippet? Every single year he gets a ragtag roster filled with bargain bin two-way players into this position to go to the playoffs. Truly phenomenal stuff.
  • The Calgary Flames made this list due to how many points they currently have, but for all intents and purposes they're not making the postseason. Credit Miikka Kiprusoff for carrying them this far.
  • Chicago is an elite team who has been killed by goaltending this season. They make the playoffs and cause a lot of trouble for whoever plays them.
  • If I'm playing it safe I say the season culminates with San Jose, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Phoenix making the playoffs.
  • My gut tells me it's Colorado pushing Phoenix out, but I can't tell if that's impartial analysis or the Jamie McGinn Kool-Aid I be drinking every day./

David Backes is having an absolutely phenomenal year for St. Louis and will probably line up against the Thornton line (unless San Jose's coaching staff decides to steer clear of that matchup). Pavel Datsyuk has been the poster child for the Selke Trophy since the lockout, and deservedly so, but I think Backes makes one of the strongest cases for the award this season considering his spectacular numbers.

He's played 1:34 on the kill this year for the Blues, which isn't exceptional considering the team spreads out the minutes in that situation pretty well, but Backes' even strength play this season has been all-world and truly something to watch. He's played the toughest minutes of St. Louis' forward group this season, has logged the second hardest zone starts (beginning 47.7% of his shifts in the defensive zone) and still manages to find himself among the leaders on his team in numerous offensive metrics at evens.

Backes is third in relative CORSI on the team (8.6), fourth in points per 60 minutes played (1.82), and fourth in +/- per 60 minutes (+1.09), sterling numbers from one of the Blues lynchpins. At 6'3 216 pounds he's an absolute bitch to play against as well, which gives St. Louis that strong possession centerman every team in the League salivates over. It's players like this that have a big impact come playoff time, and players like this that should make the Blues one of the toughest matchups in the Western Conference a month from now.

Prediction: Sharks win 2-1. Goals by Pavelski and Galiardi.