Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.
Flip a coin. Bet on black. Do all of the usual clichés that represent a 50/50 chance of something occurring, and you'll understand the New York Rangers' playoff probability after their loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday and the Florida Panthers' season-saving win against the Pittsburgh Penguins the following day.
According to Sports Club Stats, the Rangers have exactly a 50.0-percent chance of making the playoffs. The Panthers, with their win and other factors, saw their probability increase 13.5 percent to 44.1; again, not exactly optimal with time running out, but they're right back in this.
Of course, the Rangers have one significant advantage in this duel to the finish: Both teams have 89 points in 79 games, but the Rangers have 40 wins to the Panthers' 39. The road isn't easy at all for New York -- a game against the Montreal Canadiens, and then two games against the Philadelphia Flyers to end the season -- but technically the Rangers control their own fate.
The Panthers, meanwhile, have the Flyers, Atlanta Thrashers and Washington Capitals remaining. Which is to say two games they're going to play extraordinarily well in, sandwiched around a trap game they'll ultimately look back on as the end of their run.
Coming up, the playoff picture for both conferences, including a Western Conference where the Ducks are sliding back to the pack.
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:
% Chance of 7th
% Chance of 8th
The Anaheim Ducks' loss to the San Jose Sharks had a slight impact on the race: Their overall probability dropped 3.7 percent to 92.4 overall, while the Blues (plus 1.5), Predators (plus 1.1), Wild (plus 0.6) and Oilers (plus 0.3) saw tiny upticks for their chances.
Overall, the Blues (57.3 percent chance of making the postseason) and Predators (42.5 percent) are the two teams with legitimate, non-apocalyptic chances of making the dance in that eight seed. Nashville's game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday could tell us a lot about where this is going.
Higher up the food chain, the Calgary Flames are tied with the Vancouver Canucks with 94 points, but have a game in-hand -- which is why Sports Club Stats gives them a 66-percent probability of finishing third, while Vancouver has a 61-percent probability of finishing fifth.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference:
% Chance of 7th
% Chance of 8th
New York Rangers
The Sabres face the Detroit Red Wings on Versus tonight for their game in-hand on the Rangers and Panthers. Good luck with that.
The seeding for the first round is still completely unpredictable. If the playoffs started today, the Washington Capitals would face the Montreal Canadiens; the New Jersey Devils would take on the Pittsburgh Penguins; the Philadelphia Flyers would face off against the Carolina Hurricanes; and Tim Thomas would play Sean Avery.
That said, there's a 32 percent chance right now that the Devils take the No. 2 seed; there's a 29 percent chance the Habs place sixth; and there's even an 11 percent chance the Flyers place sixth.
Man, this is fun. Viva la Vortex of Death!