So, I have updated the playoff pool sheet that is downloadable from my website this morning, for one significant change. No, it's not a player change, those are locked in and not without a landmine or two, I think. No, since the sheet was officially released on Friday, there have been a few of key points to consider, when you're filling in your playoff pool sheet.
The defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, have officially punched their ticket into the show. This should come as any surprise, especially with the way that Evgeni Malkin and company have been playing of late. I would expect a good number of entries to be rather Penguins-centric. Which way are you going to go? Crosby-Malkin-Murray, perhaps? Maybe you want the goal scorer, Phil Kessel in there... you know, for the game-winning goals.
Over the weekend, we did see a couple of teams drop out of the race officially. In the Eastern Conference, the Carolina Hurricanes were dropped, leaving four teams to fight over the last three spots in that other conference. Columbus, Florida, New Jersey and Philadelphia will all be jockeying for position, although it looks like the Panthers will be the next to drop here shortly and that race might come to a whimpering end. At least there will be a race to jockey for playoff position, because no one will want to go up against Boston or Tampa Bay, if they don't have to.
It's very much the same story in the west as well, as we're seeing only a small number of teams fight for an even smaller number of spots. The Dallas Stars were removed from playoff contention on Sunday night, and thus, removed from the current version of the playoff pool sheet. This leaves six teams to fight for three spots, since only three teams have clinched in the west. The removal of Dallas leaves Anaheim, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose and St. Louis to still fight for position, with San Jose and Minnesota looking like the next two to clinch. The battle for the last wild card spot could come down to Colorado and St. Louis and that's what this week will be all about.