Thursday, March 02, 2006

Northwest Division watch

Well, I'm down for the count today, home sick and coughing up a lung. That, however, won't hold me back from getting back into the NHL-watching rhythm.

Here we are, with just 48 days left in the 2005-06 season, and the playoff picture for the Northwest Division is still as crazy as ever. When I last took an in-depth look at the NHL standings, the last place team in that division, the Minnesota Wild, were 11 points behind the division-leading Calgary Flames.

Five weeks later — minus two for the Olympic break — and the Wild are 10 back.

With just 20 or so games remaining, the last-place team could still conceivably become the first-place team. It's heady stuff.

Four Northwest Division teams — Calgary, Colorado, Vancouver and Minnesota — are in action tonight and losses by the first three teams coupled with a Wild win would bring all five teams in the division within an eight-point gap.

On the top rung, the Flames' 73 points are good for 3rd in the Western Conference. Minnesota? With only four fewer wins than Calgary, they're currently all the way down in 11th.

The next closest division in terms of first to worst? The Pacific, where the Phoenix Coyotes are 11 wins and 21 points behind the Dallas Stars.

It's not even close, folks.

So, I'll have my eye on all four of tonight's games with Northwest Division implications — Vancouver-Nashville, Calgary-St. Louis, Colorado-Columbus, Minnesota-Los Angeles — and weigh back in later tonight.

UPDATE Well, the Canucks beat Tomas Vokoun only once on 40+ shots and lose 3-1. Calgary easily handles the Blues, Colorado grits out a 1-0 nailbiter over Columbus and Lubomir Visnovsky had a late goal to put the Kings over the Wild.

The Northwest Division
3.CGY: NW 59 34 18   7  75   
5.COL: NW 61 34 21 6 74
6.VAN: NW 61 34 22 5 73
7.EDM: NW 59 30 21 8 68
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11.MIN:NW 60 29 26 5 63

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