Because of a pair of quirks in the way the NHL standings operate, the Flames could LOSE to the Ducks Friday night and still move AHEAD of the Ducks in the Western Conference standings.
Here’s how: Minnesota and Calgary are tied for first place in a relatively weak Northwest Division. Whoever wins that division is pretty much guaranteed a third seed in the conference standings when the playoffs start; right now Minnesota and Calgary both have 75 points to lead the division. Because Minnesota has won more games (35-33) than Calgary, the Wild own the third seed. But should Minnesota lose to Florida on Friday night, and Calgary falls to the Ducks either in overtime or in a shootout, the Flames would move ahead of the Ducks (who are currently fourth in the standings) into the third seed, and Minnesota would suddenly drop to sixth.
Situations like this are extremely rare, but it still provides a sound argument against giving the three division winners in each conference the top three playoff seeds. It also makes you wonder what was so bad about ties in hockey: It would at least seem more honorable if Calgary moved ahead of the Ducks in the standings after a tie, rather than some form of a loss.
Anyway, the Sharks won in Columbus, 4-2 last night, so here’s the new top-of-the-conference standings:
1. DETROIT: 42-17-6; 90 points; 124 possible points; 17 games left (11 at home)
2. DALLAS: 40-22-5; 85 points; 115 possible points; 15 games left (9 at home)
3. CALGARY: 33-22-9; 75 points; 111 possible points; 18 games left (7 at home)
4. DUCKS: 36-23-7; 79 points; 111 possible points; 16 games left (9 at home)
5. SAN JOSE: 34-21-8; 76 points; 114 possible points; 19 games left (9 at home)