It was announced a few days ago the start of the 2023 NHL Playoffs would be on April 18. As we are just now less than one month away from postseason hockey, then comes the nerves, anxiety, stress, and fun experience the playoffs bring for all involved.
Of course, the Colorado Avalanche came out of the playoffs on top of the world winning the Stanley Cup. However, with a tightly contested Western Conference this time around, it will not be easy. It never is.
But, how does the rest of the season line up for the other playoff contenders in similar points positions as the Avs? They’ll all factor into where the West finishes up as a whole regardless. Let’s find out:
Right in the Race: Dallas Stars
Dallas currently leads the Central Division but their lead has shrunk. What had been a multi-game, multi-point lead is now a one-point lead over currently, the Minnesota Wild. Dallas has multiple home games all in their favor, but their opponents are on the more challenging side.
While they host easier teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers, they have a good slate of harder home games. This includes the Seattle Kraken, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Vegas Golden Knights.
Only five road games lay ahead of them, with the only challenging one being in Colorado to open April. They may look to get the job done away from American Airlines Center to finish first in the Central and perhaps the West if it works out.
The Wild also has a unique schedule themselves. They have closed the gap to the Stars but have more games left on the road. Their home slate starts later this afternoon when they host the Washington Capitals and also includes Seattle and Vegas.
On the road, their schedule is moderate. They do visit a couple of difficult teams like the New Jersey Devils and Vegas but also go to Chicago and Philadelphia. An even-balanced schedule for them could either be beneficial or detrimental depending on how they perform.
Edmonton, while in the Pacific Division, does play a big factor in the Avs’ playoff chances. They are in third in the Pacific but are in a very tight race to finish in the top three in the Pacific or end up in a wild card spot.
Luckily for them, they have a decent schedule. This includes an even six games at home and on the road, with a light opponent load. They have the San Jose Sharks three times total and Arizona twice.
This doesn’t mean they don’t have important games though. They have the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights twice along with a visit to Colorado in the final week of the regular season. All five games, especially the one in Ball Arena in mid-April, will be huge to their playoff standing.
The newest team in the NHL has had the most surprising but exciting rise to being in a playoff position. While they were threatening for the top of the Pacific Division, this seems out of reach now as they’ve fallen into the wild card slots.
It doesn’t help for the Kraken when they have the majority of their games on the road. This includes tough visits to Vegas for their final game, as well down to Dallas. They also play in Nashville which is never easy despite their place in the standings.
Their six remaining home games leave the best chance to pick up points. They host the Arizona Coyotes twice, along with the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks. It will be a stressful close to the Kraken season who could win the West but also drop out of the playoffs as a whole.
Further below the Avs: Winnipeg Jets
Winnipeg has been in a freefall for the last month with a rough stretch of games seeing them on the losing end. They’ve gone from competing for the top of the Central to clinging onto the last wild card spot.
Their even six home and road games slots are similar to the other teams on this list. They’ve got the usual faces of the Yotes and Sharks, but they do also host the Detroit Red Wings looking for a spot out East.
However, with their form and other teams’ form around them, they will be looking under them in the standings rather than ahead of them unless things turn drastically for both them and their opponents.
Calgary is the first team out right now but there is a reasonable gap between them and the Jets. Three points, to be exact.
Luckily for them, they have seven games at the Saddledome against some favorable teams. This includes San Jose twice, Anaheim, and Chicago. They also have some tough ones including the next team on this list too they’re in the running with.
Two trips to the Vancouver Canucks and a huge game in Winnipeg will be circled on their calendars as well. It could go either way for the Flames, but the truth is they will need support to get into the dance.
Finally, the last team in the running for a playoff spot is the Preds who are one point behind the Flames. Nashville has the most games remaining out of everyone on this list with eight home games and seven away games.
Their road trips will be grueling, as they go out East against the New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, and Pittsburgh Penguins. Of course, they also have to play teams ahead of them too in Winnipeg and Calgary.
Their home slate isn’t any easier either. This includes visits from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, and Colorado on the final day. They have a big uphill climb if they have any shot of making it to the playoffs.
Farther ahead of the Avs: Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas has been in control in the Pacific for the majority of the season. They lead the Western Conference and look to keep hold of it. But, they do have some challenges awaiting.
They have only five home games with eight road games in their season. Their home games are all playoff teams except for the Connor Bedard-hopeful Columbus Blue Jackets.
The eight road games will be more to watch for their season. An even four games against playoff teams and against non-playoff teams gives them chances to gain points but also give them up to chasing opponents as well. Vegas has the least work to do to win the West, so they’ll look to complete the job and keep the Avs from winning the conference for the third year in a row.
Los Angeles Kings
However, the Kings are right on the tails of the Knights. These medieval forces will be challenging one another to see who truly gets the throne.
An even six home and away games for them against every other team listed here in this piece already. However, all but three teams are in the playoffs. For LA, they’ll look to take advantage and push any others down as they chase the Western Conference top spot.
And finally, the Colorado Avalanche
Our heroes are on a great five-game win streak after sweeping their second-to-last big road trip. They took control of their opponents, held on and relied on goaltending when they needed to, and wound up with two points.
Their recent form and other results elsewhere have taken them from the wild card spots to now challenging for the top of the Central just three points behind the Stars. As has been documented several times, Colorado also has the easiest schedule remaining in the NHL.
This includes several games against the Sharks, Coyotes, and Ducks. But, they do have formidable opponents as well including Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and LA. Regardless, the Avs have their chances and will look to take over as they end the season on a high.
How does it all play out in the end in the Western Conference with a handful of weeks to go? Let us know in the comments below!