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Death Watch: Capitals give Sabres hope; Sharks vs. Stars in huge West showdown

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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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 Washington Capitals allowed Steven Stamkos to give the Buffalo Sabres some life, as the NHL's leading goal-scorer set up a game-tying goal in the second, scored the game-winning goal in the third — unchecked in front of the Caps' crease — and then iced the game with goal No. 58 into an empty net.

Via The Washington Times:

"It's frustrating. We could have really put ourselves in a good spot and put a little bit of a stranglehold on it. But now we just kind of took one more step back and made it a lot tougher on ourselves," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We obviously let off the gas, and there was a lot of bad turnovers and sloppy play. That's the sign of a team, that, in my opinion, thinks they had it a little bit too good. It was a big-time error by us. We never should've had that game be where it was."

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Well, yeah.

The Capitals are still very much in the driver's seat for the No. 8 seed. They have 88 points with two games left, and the Sabres have 86 with three games left. Alas, one of those Buffalo games is Tuesday night against that Leafs juggernaut that humbled them on Saturday.

Remember: The Sabres need to finish ahead of the Capitals in points because they collected too many flimsy B.S. shootout wins during the regular season, and hence lose the tie-breaker.

What the loss to Tampa cost the Capitals, potentially, is the Southeast Division title. The Florida Panthers can clinch with a win over Winnipeg at home tonight; if that fails, they just need a win in either of their last two games to clinch — including a Thursday night showdown with the Capitals in DC.

Sports Club Stats gives the Panthers a 96-percent chance of being the No. 3 seed … but who would they face?

Coming up, the playoff pictures for the East and West, as we shift the focus to playoff seeding. The full NHL standings and schedules can be found on Y! Sports.

All playoff percentages are from Sports Club Stats; tragic numbers and other figures via the NHL. A team is eliminated from play-offs when their "Tragic Number" hits 0.

Here's the playoff picture for the Eastern Conference bubble:

Team (Games Remaining) Place/Pts/ROW Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
Florida Panthers (3) 3rd/91/31 -- 99.6 -- 3
Washington Capitals (2) 8th/88/36 -- 80.7 1 76
Buffalo Sabres (3) 9th/86/31 4 19.7 -- 20

The Eastern Conference's top seven teams are all in action on Tuesday night, with the New York Rangers hosting the Philadelphia Flyers; the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Boston Bruins; the New Jersey Devils hosting the New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators hosting the Carolina Hurricanes. The top seven have all clinched playoff berths; now it's about the seeding.

The Devils clinch the No. 6 seed with a victory and an Ottawa loss in either regulation or overtime. The Bruins are locked into the No. 2 seed.

The Flyers are one point in back of Pittsburgh for home ice in the No. 4/5 series, leading the Penguins in non-shootout victories. The Pens are still gunnin' for that No. 1 spot, but the Rangers can clinch the top seed in the conference with at least one point against Philly or with a Penguins loss.

(Either way, we hope Torts and Lavy have a chance to compare notes on how to feign outrage over an opponent sending out their fourth line to start fights off the faceoff. Gotta say the Flyers coach has a few moves Torts hasn't tried yet ...)

Here's the Western Conference race:

Team (Games Remaining) Place/ Pts/ROW Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
Los Angeles Kings (2) 3rd/93/34 -- 95.6
20 12
Phoenix Coyotes (3) 7th/91/33 -- 92.2 49 21
San Jose Sharks (3) 8th/90/32 -- 61.6 17 33
Dallas Stars (3) 9th/89/35 6 46.5 13 29
Colorado Avalanche (2) 10th/88/32 3 4.1 0 4

The Kings' 2-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers upped their probability to finish as Pacific Division champion to 63 percent -- tempered, obviously, by the fact that the San Jose Sharks get them twice before the end of the season.

The Sharks and Dallas Stars have what amounts to a playoff game this evening in Big D. With a regulation win, San Jose's playoff probability shoots up to 91.8 percent; Dallas's would drop to 11.9 percent. If the Stars win in regulation, their probability moves to 75.6 percent, while the Sharks' falls to 33 percent. You'll not find a more significant game on the schedule.

The Coyotes host the Columbus Blue Jackets, and can move their probability to 97.5 percent with a win. They have games remaining at the Blues and at the Wild, which is to say they have a clear path to the postseason.

The Nashville Predators can leap ahead of the Detroit Red Wings into the No. 4 seed with a win over the Minnesota Wild, but Detroit will have a game in-hand.

For the President's Trophy, the Rangers still control their destiny, tied with Vancouver with 107 points each but leading in actual victories. The Canucks host the Ducks tonight. The Blues, one point off the pace, are at Detroit on Wednesday.

Who wins that Dallas vs. San Jose game, in your estimation?

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