The NHL All-Star weekend mostly gives players and teams a reprieve from the rigors of a long, tough season.
But as soon as it ends Sunday evening, it’s back to reality.
That signals crunch time, especially for teams that were on the outside of the playoff picture last April.
Each team has between 29 and 35 games remaining – those at the top of the standings are probably feeling pretty confident about a return to the post-season, while those on the outside know the margin for error is minute.
Here’s a quick look at the non-playoff teams from 2014-15 that have greater than a 50 percent chance making the dance, courtesy of sportsclubstats.com. It’s worth noting that the first four on this list are in the top six overall in terms of likelihood of making the playoffs.
Dallas Stars – 31-14-5, 99.8 percent
Led by the dynamic all-star duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, the Stars are near locks to continue playing after the regular season ends. While they’ve cooled off since winning 19 of their first 24 games by the end of November, they remain second in the Central Division. The Stars are three points behind Chicago, but with three games in hand. They are the league’s highest-scoring team with 160 goals for.
Los Angeles Kings – 30-16-3, 99.6 percent
The 2014 Stanley Cup champions were squeezed out of the playoffs last season, allowing the Calgary Flames to sneak in as the Pacific Division’s third season. They’re not taking any chances in 2015-16. Darryl Sutter’s crew has been the class of the division for the entire way. Backed by a league-high 56 percent Corsi, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, Los Angeles holds a seven-point lead over second place San Jose.
Florida Panthers – 29-15-5, 99.1 percent
Only twice since the turn of the century has Florida reached the playoffs – in 2000 and 2012. Barring a massive late-season collapse, there will be one more appearance to add to that list. Buoyed by a recent 12-game winning streak, the Panthers sit atop the Atlantic Division with a five-point lead on their intrastate rivals, the 2015 Stanley Cup finalist Tampa Bay Lightning.
San Jose Sharks – 26-18-4, 94.2 percent
The Sharks missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2003. That led to a coaching change. Peter DeBoer came in. Todd McLellan went out. The Sharks also have a new starting goaltender. They acquired Martin Jones in the hours before the NHL draft. The former Calgary Hitmen goalie is 23-13-3 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.
Boston Bruins – 26-18-5, 80.9 percent
Coach Claude Julien was said to be on the hot seat after the Bruins missed the playoffs last season. However, he survived and has guided Boston to the fourth seed in the Atlantic Division at the break. They’re holding down the first wild card position with a three-point advantage on Pittsburgh and New Jersey.
Colorado Avalanche – 27-22-3, 61.4 percent
Patrick Roy was the beneficiary of Semyon Varlamov’s .927 save percentage as well as some good luck when he had to pull him early in 2013-14. But the bubble burst and the Avalanche tumbled from first to last in the Central Division. Colorado won five of its final six games heading into the All-Star Game and sits fourth in the division. The first wild card spot is in the Avs’ possession, too.