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Ultimate Fantasy Hockey Playoffs

by Dan Rusanowsky / San Jose Sharks
Jamie Baker’s recent blog was a great one, because it was filled with imagination and firmly rooted in reality at the same time.  I’d like to take a trip into the world of fantasy for a little while.


Each spring, a group of our business leaders gathers for a fantastic dinner at the Grill at HP Pavilion to conduct the “Ultimate Fantasy Hockey Playoffs,” a fantasy hockey draft to benefit the Foundation Fighting Blindness.  The event, which will take place on Monday, April 12th, has raised over $450,000 over the years toward this great cause through the generosity of the Sharks, other NHL teams, and, of course, all of those who participate.

You can check on what this event is all about by going to http://ultimate.nhl.com/ and see some details. Click on the San Jose icon to find out more about how to participate here, if you are so inclined. 

But I didn’t simply want to delve into a great cause today.  I actually wanted to indulge in a little journey as to what might actually happen in these final days of the regular season.

It is a fascinating journey into mathematical probability.  While there is a major difference between what really happens on the ice and what could happen, it’s always amazing to consider the latter, and how life might be at the end of each season.

In considering today’s standings and the remaining games, the amazing thing is that the Sharks might need to win all three of their remaining games against Calgary, Vancouver and Phoenix to capture the top seed in the Western Conference.  Beyond these important games, and given the show of desperation on the part of the clubs ranked 7th through 11th, I have come up with the idea that there are several really, REALLY pivotal games on the calendar.

Submitted for your approval, please consider the following dramatic scenario, beginning with games between April 5th and 10th, leading into the season’s final day on April 11th:

•    The Sharks run the table, but have to go to overtime or shootout all three games to get their three wins.
•    Calgary loses to the Sharks in OT, beats Minnesota in OT and loses its final game in Vancouver.
•    Chicago beats Dallas and St. Louis in a shootout, and wins at Colorado in regulation.
•    Colorado loses three games, suffering from the “I just beat San Jose in OT Blues.” They drop games at Vancouver, at Edmonton (in the Oilers’ season finale), and a heartbreaker at home to Chicago.
•    Detroit splits its home-and-home series with Columbus, giving Rick Nash a victory at home in his final game of the season.
•    Los Angeles loses to Anaheim and Phoenix, but beats Edmonton.
•    Nashville loses at Phoenix and to hard-charging St. Louis.
•    Phoenix beats Nashville and wins in Los Angeles, but loses to the Sharks in a shootout on the final day of the season at HP Pavilion.
•    Vancouver beats Colorado and Calgary, and loses to the Sharks in OT.

To quote Samuel F.B. Morse, “What hath God wrought?” Let’s take a look at the standings on the morning of April 11th if all of the above came true:

RANK WESTERN CONFERENCE GP W L OT PTS
1 SAN JOSE 82 51 20 11 113
2 CHICAGO 81 52 22 7 111
3 VANCOUVER 82 50 27 5 105
4 PHOENIX 82 50 25 7 107
5 DETROIT 81 42 25 14 98
6 NASHVILLE 82 46 30 6 98
7 LOS ANGELES 81 45 29 7 97
8 ST. LOUIS 82 41 31 10 92
9 CALGARY 82 41 31 10 92
10 COLORADO 81 42 32 7 91
11 ANAHEIM 81 40 31 10 90
12 DALLAS 82 35 31 16 86
13 MINNESOTA 82 38 36 8 84
14 COLUMBUS 82 33 36 13 79
15 EDMONTON 81 26 47 8 60

GAMES REMAINING ON APRIL 11th:

DETROIT AT CHICAGO
LOS ANGELES AT COLORADO
EDMONTON AT ANAHEIM

So, what would be at stake in these three pivotal games if the table looked as it does above on the season’s final day?

•    If Detroit defeated Chicago, the Red Wings would guarantee themselves the fifth seed and a first-round matchup with Phoenix.  The Sharks would capture the top seed in the Western Conference, and the Blackhawks would finish second.

•    If Chicago defeated Detroit, the Blackhawks would be tied with the Sharks in points, but would get the top seed because they would have more wins.  San Jose would be seeded second, and would play either Los Angeles or Detroit (start breathing heavily here) in the first round, depending on the outcome of L.A. at Colorado.

•    If the Blackhawks were to win in overtime or a shootout, then the Sharks would face either the Kings or Nashville in round one, because the extra point would secure the fifth seed for the Red Wings and would cause members of the A.B.D.C. (the “Anybody But Detroit Club”) to exhale heavily with sighs of relief.

Well, that’s a lot of drama.  So, for the purposes of today’s discussion, let’s say that Detroit beats Chicago, and the Sharks find themselves in first place.  Now, let’s look at the rest of this crazy scenario:

If Anaheim also wins its final home game against Edmonton, the only remaining game would be Los Angeles at Colorado.  The standings would look like this:

RANK WESTERN CONFERENCE GP W L OT PTS
1 SAN JOSE 82 51 20 11 113
2 CHICAGO 82 52 23 7 111
3 VANCOUVER 82 50 27 5 105
4 PHOENIX 82 50 25 7 107
5 DETROIT 82 43 25 14 100
6 NASHVILLE 82 46 30 6 98
7 LOS ANGELES 81 45 29 7 97
8 ST. LOUIS 82 41 31 10 92
9 ANAHEIM 82 41 31 10 92
10 CALGARY 82 41 31 10 92
11 COLORADO 81 42 32 7 91
12 DALLAS 82 35 31 16 86
13 MINNESOTA 82 38 36 8 84
14 COLUMBUS 82 33 36 13 79
15 EDMONTON 82 26 48 8 60


Holy Hat Trick, Batman!  What we would have is a remarkable situation:  three teams tied for the last playoff spot with an identical 41-31-10 record.  On the morning of April 11th, according to the way that I figure it, it would come down to the tiebreaker in the head-to-head series of all games between Anaheim, Calgary, and St. Louis.  Given a St. Louis 2-1 shootout win against Anaheim on April 9th to create this tie, here is how the tiebreaker would work, I think:

HEAD-to-HEAD GP W L OT PTS
STL vs. ANA and CGY 8 5 1 2 12
ANA vs. STL and CGY 8 4 3 1 9
CGY vs. ANA and STL 8 3 3 2 8


So, on April 11th, a three-way tie with an identical record would produce St. Louis as the provisional 8th seed, facing San Jose in the first round of the playoffs.

But that wild scenario would not be finalized until the outcome of the Los Angeles game in Denver against the Avalanche.  That game presents several possibilities:

If Colorado beats Los Angeles, the Avalanche would finish with 93 points and finish in eighth spot.  The playoffs would look like this:

#8 COLORADO vs. #1 SAN JOSE
#7 L.A. vs. #2 CHICAGO
#6 NASHVILLE vs. #3 VANCOUVER
#5 DETROIT vs. #4 PHOENIX


If Los Angeles beats Colorado in regulation, the Avalanche would be eliminated, and the playoffs would look like this:

#8 ST. LOUIS vs. #1 SAN JOSE
#7 NASHVILLE vs. #2 CHICAGO
#6 L.A. vs. #3 VANCOUVER
#5 DETROIT vs. #4 PHOENIX


If Los Angeles beats Colorado in OT or a shootout, Colorado would get one point, and would actually back into the playoffs by virtue of the fact that they would have one more win than the other tied teams:

RANK WESTERN CONFERENCE GP W L OT PTS
1 SAN JOSE 82 51 20 11 113
2 CHICAGO 82 52 23 7 111
3 VANCOUVER 82 50 27 5 105
4 PHOENIX 82 50 25 7 107
5 DETROIT 82 43 25 14 100
6 LOS ANGELES 82 46 29 7 99
7 NASHVILLE 82 46 30 6 98
8 COLORADO 82 42 32 8 92
9 ST. LOUIS 82 41 31 10 92
10 ANAHEIM 82 41 31 10 92
11 CALGARY 82 41 31 10 92
12 DALLAS 82 35 31 16 86
13 MINNESOTA 82 38 36 8 84
14 COLUMBUS 82 33 36 13 79
15 EDMONTON 82 26 48 8 60


Then, the playoffs would look like this:

#8 COLORADO vs. #1 SAN JOSE
#7 NASHVILLE vs. #2 CHICAGO
#6 L.A. vs. #3 VANCOUVER
#5 DETROIT vs. #4 PHOENIX


By now, I think that you’re getting the idea that there is a reason why the standings don’t simply get mailed in, and why every game is important.  In examining this scenario, there could be three out-of-town games that could have magnified interest because of playoff implications:

April 9:  Anaheim at St. Louis
April 11:  Los Angeles at Colorado
April 11:  Detroit at Chicago

Of course, all of these games could be moot, but one thing is for certain:  from the Sharks’ perspective, all three remaining games are going to be fascinating, and the playoff race is going to be incredible.  That goes for both the Western and Eastern conferences. 

One other thing:  don’t try to predict anything, lest you devolve into a modern episode of “The Twilight Zone.”  Simply enjoy the journey, because it’s going to be tremendous!

I’m Dan Rusanowsky, in the Broadcasters’ Blog.

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