With just one week left in the regular season, the race is on for first-round home ice in the Western Conference. Detroit, Nashville and Chicago, seeded fourth through sixth respectively, are battling it out in the final few games to decide who opens up the 4 vs. 5 series at home next week – or who gets to host a possible Game 7.
The three aforementioned teams are separated by just one point in the standings, so there’s a lot to be decided yet. Detroit and Nashville each have three games left, while Chicago just has two. Detroit and Chicago will actually close out the season head-to-head in Detroit on Saturday, which could ultimately decide everything.
Home-ice advantage has lost its luster in recent years, but it seems to have extra meaning in this particular three-team race.
In Detroit’s and Chicago’s case, they are far better at home than on the road where they each possess below-.500 records; Detroit is specifically dominant at home, boasting a 31-6-2 record. Nashville is the best road team of the three, but home ice would mean a lot to them, too. It means a lot to any team in a long series. Who wants to play a Game 7 on the road when you can have it in your own barn?
That’s why this week is so important to each of these three teams. Yes, all three are confident they can win games on the road or win in any situation, but any series between two of these three teams will make for a six- or seven-game slugfest. Historically, the home team has gone 70-45 in Game 7 since 1967. Detroit, Nashville and Chicago would want those odds on their side if the situation arises. It goes without saying.
Here are the final point totals for every scenario this week for all three teams:
Here are the remaining schedules for all three teams:
|Minnesota (Apr. 3)||Home||34-35-10, 78 pts||2-1 Predators|
|Dallas (Apr. 5)||Home||42-32-5, 89 pts||2-1 Stars|
|Colorado (Apr. 7)||Away||41-33-6, 88 pts||3-0 Predators|
|Red Wings schedule|
|St. Louis (Apr. 4)||Away||48-21-10, 106 pts||3-2 Red Wings|
|New Jersey (Apr. 5)||Home||45-28-6, 96 pts||First meeting|
|Chicago (Apr. 7)||Home||44-26-10, 98 pts||3-2 Blackhawks|
|Minnesota (Apr. 5)||Away||34-35-10, 78 pts||2-1 Blackhawks|
|Detroit (Apr. 7)||Away||47-27-5, 99 pts||3-2 Blackhawks|
The easiest route for the Predators to get the 4 seed is to win out and hope Detroit loses once. That’s easier said than done, however. The Predators will be facing a desperate Stars club Thursday night, then go west to play the Avalanche in their season finale.
Barry Trotz’s club faced a similar scenario last year when they had a chance to clinch first-round home ice in Game 82, and they fell short to a young Blues team that was dangerous and had nothing to play for but pride. It could be the same situation in Colorado this weekend.
Another realistic scenario for the Predators could be to win two of the final three games, then have Detroit lose at St. Louis and at home to Chicago. But that’s one of many scenarios.
Remember: the tiebreaker is regulation/overtime wins. The team that has the most ROW of this trio is the Predators, with 41; Detroit and Chicago have 39 and 38, respectively. So the Predators have the edge in that area. They should also have the edge with the schedule, which is a tad easier than Detroit’s or Chicago’s.
But if everything was decided on paper, we would already know who would get the 4 seed. It will be interesting to watch Detroit, Nashville and Chicago joust for seeding in this frantic final week.