Puck Daddy - NHL

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

Pour a little mochachino out this morning for the Ottawa Senators, whose tragic number (the amount of points gained by the eight seed and/or lost by a team chasing it) reached zero last night in their 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers and the guy who could have coached them all season.

The bad news, of course, is that the hopes and dreams of Senators fans who witnessed their team embark on a miraculous playoff push under Coach Cory Clouston have now been dashed.

The good news, at least for the rest of the conference, is that the Senators bleep-teased fans, media and management to the point where the team's systemic problems won't be addressed in the off-season, thus ensuring their absence from next year's Stanley Cup playoffs as well. Always a silver lining.

A few games last night dramatically altered the Western Conference playoff picture. Tragic numbers and vital probabilities for both conferences coming up, along with what might be the last great desperation coaching move for Craig MacTavish of the Oilers.

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" for teams.

Westward ho!

Team

Place/Record/Pts.

Tragic #

% Chance of 7th

% Chance of 8th

St. Louis Blues

9th/37-30-9/83

11

27

25

Minnesota Wild

10th/36-32-9/81

7

4

10

Edmonton Oilers

11th/36-32-9/81

7

3

7

Dallas Stars

12th/34-33-10/78

4

0

0

Los Angeles Kings

13th/31-34-11/73

1

-

0

Columbus's 2-1 win over Nashville really solidified their standing, giving the BJs a 97.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, which is actually higher than that of the No. 6 seeded Pittsburgh Penguins back in the East (97.1). Sports Club still gives the Blues (61.7) a better overall percentage chance at the postseason than the Predators (49.4) despite being down a point in the standings.

Minnesota lost a huge point in overtime to the Canucks, despite having a 4-on-3 power play chance to win it. Roberto Luongo stonewalled them a few times, but the Wild didn't execute well enough either, to use a little coach-speak.

Then there's the Edmonton Oilers, who dropped a 5-3 decision against the Ducks at home that really wasn't that close. The Oil did what they wanted to do (finally) on home ice: Played very well in the first period, taking the body and putting the first goal of the game on the board. But the Ducks were 3-for-4 on the power play, and that was the difference.

The Oil had 14 shots in the third period rally, and had it down to a one-goal lead with less than three minutes left.

And then MacTavish had to check the stick. From Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun:

The measurement came after Dennis Grebeshkov and Zack Stortini had scored late third-period goals to get the Oilers back in it, MacTavish called for a stick measurement on Teemu Selanne. Instead of a power play, the Oilers ended up a man short when Teemu's stick was judged legal.

"We had some what we thought was really good, reliable information," said MacTavish, a stand-up guy right to what was probably his end in Edmonton.

"Visually it looked to be not even close. I was that sure, I made the call. Obviously it was a terrible mistake.

"You gotta be sure. I thought we had enough information to be sure enough," he said. "It's a terrible feeling to sabotage what looked like what was going to be a hell of a comeback."

You know what else is a terrible feeling? Losing your job after the season. But it'll help you forget about this stick thing.

Here's the Eastern Conference contenders:

Team

Place/Record/Pts.

Tragic #

% Chance of 7th

% Chance of 8th

Florida Panthers

9th/38-28-11/87

9

12

26

Buffalo Sabres

10th/37-30-8/82

8

2

7

Last night's games improved the Panthers' chances (43.1) by 5.6 percent. They've also got Atlanta twice in their remaining games. Keep hope alive!

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