Death Watch: Should the Preds, Panthers make out their wills?

Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.

When Edmonton Oilers Coach Craig MacTavish applied the term "the vortex of death" to the playoff race at the end of the season, he wasn't simply talking about the mortality of teams' postseason hopes.

(That said: R.I.P. 2008-09 Edmonton Oilers.)

MacT was referring to the manic swings in emotion from one evening to the next morning, as a high becomes a low and dreams get crushed by the weight of reality and statistical probability.

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With a win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators could have increased their postseason probability to upwards of 64 percent.

Instead, last night's 4-2 loss to the Blackhawks combined with the St. Louis Blues' emphatic 5-1 win at the Phoenix Coyotes dropped the Preds' chances for playoff qualification all the way down to 14.9 percent. As Steve Sullivan told the AP after the game:

"I think our mind-set coming into this week was that we have to run the table ... And we didn't. We didn't think two-out-of-three wins was going to be enough. Now we have to hope that it is."

With a win over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Florida Panthers could have increased their chances for the playoffs to nearly 68 percent. Instead, their 2-1 loss in Philly combined with the New York Rangers' 3-1 victory at home over the Montreal Canadiens dropped the Panthers' playoff hopes down 32.7 percent to just 15 percent overall.

Are the 16 teams currently holding postseason berths the 16 teams that will fill out the Stanley Cup bracket? Playoff tragic numbers and probabilities for both conferences coming up.

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:

Team

Place/Record/Pts.

Tragic #

% Chance of 7th

% Chance of 8th

Anaheim Ducks

7th/41-33-6/88

-

53

26

St. Louis Blues

8th/39-31-10/88

-

28

43

Nashville Predators

9th/39-33-8/86

3

2

13

Minnesota Wild

10th/38-33-9/85

2

1

7

For the record, the Columbus Blue Jackets (90 points, 79 games) and Anaheim Ducks (88 points, 80 games) have yet to officially qualify for the dance. If either suffer a total collapse and the Predators win at the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild, then Nashville can catch them and pass them. According to Sports Club Stats, there's only a 5 percent chance the Ducks finish ninth, and a 1 percent chance the BeeJays finish there.

But can the Predators recover from a devastating loss in their home finale? David Climer of The Tennessean has his doubts:

I just don't see it happening. The injuries have left the roster depleted, especially at forward. The Preds have been in must-win mode for the last two months and it, too, has taken a toll. This looks like a team that has little left to give.

"This is really devastating," said goalie Pekka Rinne. "It's out of our hands."

And barring some real surprises, it's out of their reach.

The Blues, meanwhile, now have an 83.8 percent chance of making the playoffs after their victory. St. Louis plays Columbus at home and then at the Colorado Avalanche to end the season. If they win out, they're in; but if they go 1-1 and the Predators go 2-0, then Nashville has the tie-breaker in wins.

They emerged from a trap game unscathed last night, but the Blues aren't in the playoffs quite yet. 

The Wild remained alive with a win against the Dallas Stars, but the Star Tribune reminds us that they're on life support:

Any Wild loss, or one point from both the Blues and Anaheim Ducks would mathematically eliminate the Wild from contention.

Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference:

Team

Place/Record/Pts.

Tragic #

% Chance of 7th

% Chance of 8th

Montreal Canadiens

7th/41-29-10/92

-

64

28

New York Rangers

8th/41-30-9/91

-

30

57

Florida Panthers

9th/39-30-11/89

2

2

13

Buffalo Sabres

10th/38-32-9/85

1

0

1

Are the Canadiens back in play? George Richards of the Miami Herald isn't convinced that the Panthers are going to catch either the Habs or the Rangers:

Now here's the rub: How do the Panthers get back? They have two games left and really need some help to make the playoffs. Montreal needs one point to finish in front of the Panthers. Yeah, the Habs are in trouble. But don't you think they probably at least pick up one point in their final two games? How about the Rangers? All they have to do is win one of their final two games.

The Canadiens have a 64-percent chance of placing seventh, but they finish with games at Boston and against the Pittsburgh Penguins at home on Saturday; the Rangers have a 57-percent chance of placing eighth, and have two games against the Philadelphia Flyers left.

The Panthers travel to the Atlanta Thrashers, and finish with the Washington Capitals at home on Saturday. The Caps, keep in mind, could have the second seed locked up by then.

The Penguins appear locked into the sixth seed, with a 78-percent chance of finishing there. They'd face the New Jersey Devils if the playoffs started today.

Speaking of which ... if the playoffs started today, there would be some intriguing matchups. We'd get our Ducks/Red Wings fix; Sean Avery and Tim Thomas would get reacquainted; and Jose Theodore might have to play a game or two in Montreal.

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