The NHL's Western Conference playoff race is close going into the final two weeks of the 2011-2012 regular season. The St. Louis Blues lead the conference with 100 points and are the only team to clinch a playoff spot thus far. Yet the final seed has yet to be determined. Mathematically, the Blues can still finish as an eight seed with eight games remaining.
There are two clusters of teams fighting for spots. The Chicago Blackhawks are the six seed with 92 points. They are tied with Nashville Predators, also of the Central Division. The Detroit Red Wings are just one point ahead with 93. All of these teams are chasing the Blues for a division crown.
The Pacific Division holds the true log jam. The Dallas Stars lead the division with 85 points. Two teams are just a point behind as the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes play follow the leader. The once-vaunted San Jose Sharks hold the fourth spot in the Pacific with 82 points. The Sharks are the current 10 seed but could move up to a three seed with just four more points provided the Stars falter.
The Colorado Avalanche are putting pressure on Pacific Division teams with 85 points out of the Northwest Division. The Avs have little hope of catching the Vancouver Canucks at 95 points, but they can make things hard for the rest of the conference. The Calgary Flames are also in the hunt with 82 points.
The close race in the Western Conference makes for exciting hockey in the final two weeks of the regular season. No playoff seed is secure as of yet. Mathematically, there are still 14 of 15 teams in the West that can qualify for the playoffs. Eleven of those teams are in the hunt and will jockey for playoff position.
As the final weeks count down to the playoffs, teams from each conference will play each other as opposed to playing inter-conference games. In terms of the Western Conference, that makes the run to the postseason even more exciting.
Teams will simply have to grit out wins as the brutal 82-game schedule winds down.
William Browning was born in St. Louis and has been a lifelong Blues fan.