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NHL Standings: No Margin for Error

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Five days ago, the Wild had come away with a big victory in Colorado, and had moved from the 10th position into the 7th spot. They were a playoff a team, and no one playing that night could change that fact. Their luck stuck around for another day, but when they lost to the Coyotes, they were shunned back outside the collective.

Now having has three days off between that loss and their game (tomorrow at home vs the Avalanche), the Wild have fallen back into 10th place, and are back to two points out of the playoffs. Even the lowly Calgary Flames have jumped ahead of the Wild.

With the Northwest crown a near impossibility, the Wild will have to be content to fight it out for one of the positions from 4th to 8th. Right now, the difference between those two positions is two points, and the difference between 8th and 13th, just 6 points.

While some authors feel the parity in the West shows just how terrible the conference is, the records would tell you otherwise. The East has just four teams that have decisive records against the West, with the Boston Bruins (3rd in the East) with a 3-5-2 record against the West.

Clearly, the West is not "terrible." Perhaps it is more likely that the West is a much more physical conference, a more defensive conference, and wins are more difficult to come by. Three point games are more common in the West, which makes it more difficult to sort out the playoff race.

While this gives some teams false hope, it is not an indictment of Western Conference hockey. Instead, it should be a sign at just how good these teams really are. No one, save for the Oilers, is truly out of this race. A win here, a loss there, even a few days off, can make or break a team's playoff position.

As for the Wild, if you still have doubts about their chances, you may want to pay a little closer attention. Should be an excellent stretch run.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.