The Western Conference playoff race has a gigantic bubble right now and a difference of 10 points can get a team as high as third in the conference standings or as low as 13th

Detroit

Here’s a look at the bracketology of the Western Conference  

Who’s In: Vancouver Canucks, Detroit Red Wings

Only one team is truly secure in the Western Conference and that’s the Vancouver Canucks. They are not only the top team in the conference, they are the top team in the NHL and will continue to fight for home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. 

The Detroit Red Wings are in very good shape and based on their pedigree, they are considered a fairly good bet to be in. Truth be told, they are only eight points ahead of the No. 8 seeded Calgary Flames but the Red Wings would have to have an epic collapse to miss the playoffs. That’s unlikely. 

Who’s Out: Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues 

There’s really only one that is all but assured to be golfing once the postseason arrives and that’s the Edmonton Oilers. They have the fewest points in the NHL and they simply don’t have it this year. 

As for the Colorado Avalanche, they are still only 11 points out of a spot, which is doable, but the fact that they have had no pulse (lost nine straight), it’s safe to put them to bed. 

Much of the same things that were said about the Avalanche can be said about the St. Louis Blues save for the fact that the Blues are only nine points out. But with just five wins in their last 18 games, they’ll also be feeling blue once the NHL postseason begins. 

In…For Now: Phoenix Coyotes, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings 

The bubble is absolutely huge in the West as nine points separate third to 12th. The key here is to follow the trends. 

And get ready for this to sound like a broken record: 

The Phoenix Coyotes are on fire right now with six straight wins and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has allowed just nine goals in that span. This is a team that’s clicking right now and as long as that is the case, they are in. 

The Nashville Predators have been in ‘playoff mode’, as head coach Barry Trotz put it, for the last couple of weeks and the results have been good. They are 4-1-1 in their last six and are 14-6-2 in their last 22. Similarly, they are being carried by the play of goaltender Pekka Rinne and he’s 13-4-2 in his last 19 starts.

The San Jose Sharks are also a team that’s hot right now as they have turned the corner after a six-game losing streak. They have won 11 of their last 15 games. They, too, are led by the stellar play of goaltender Anti Niemi, who is 7-2-0 in his last nine. 

The Anaheim Ducks are in the same category as well. They have won 14 of their last 19 games and are riding the coat tails of All-Star goaltender Jonas Hiller. Meanwhile, the Kings are doing the exact same as they are 8-0-3 in their last 11 and goaltender Jonathan Quick is 7-1-0 in his last eight and he’s allowed just 14 goals in that span. 

Setting aside the Predators for a second, we have four teams – the Coyotes, the Sharks, the Ducks and the Kings – from the Pacific Division who are all hot right now riding stellar goaltending. 

They still have plenty of contests against each other, so the hope for the teams on the outside looking in is that they can beat themselves up and slow each other down. 

On The Bubble In Looking Out: Dallas Stars 

The Dallas Stars are the only Pacific team that's not on winning at a torrid, which puts them squarely on the bubble. Remarkably, all five teams from the Pacific would be in the postseason should it start today but the Stars are the one team that’s fading in comparison to the other four climbers. 

The Stars are a strict bet-against right now as they have losses in seven of their last eight games and are dealing with a number of key injuries. 

While the races are tight, the Stars are the most vulnerable team in the West. Everyone else is rolling and will be tough to catch if that keeps up. 

On The Bubble Out Looking In: Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets 

The Calgary Flames appear to be the No. 1 contender right now as they are 9-1-2 over their last 12 games. They are confident right now – especially after a win over the Stars, the very team they are chasing. The one drawback with the Flames is that they have played 60 games, which is the most in the conference. Other teams have games in hand. 

As for the Minnesota Wild, they are only three points out but back-to-back to Vancouver and Chicago tells you that this team just isn’t that good. They’ll beat teams that beat themselves but they don’t regularly top elite competition, which will be a problem for them down the stretch. 

The Chicago Blackhawks are the reigning Stanley Cup champs, but will they get a chance to defend their crown? They are four points out but their head coach, Joel Quenneville, was recently hospitalized and they simply can’t find any consistency to their season. Sticking with the March Madness theme, this is a No. 1 seed that is losing in the second half of a game they should be winning, but you just have the feel that there is one more run in them. As shaky as their goaltending has been this season, though, it may not come. 

Lastly, the Columbus Blue Jackets are just the picture-perfect bride’s maid. If this were a Disney movie, we’d be happy if they made the playoffs as an eight-seed but realistically, they just aren’t good enough to leapfrog the three other teams to make it. Some recent injuries will also take a bite of their momentum.