Mathematically they are not yet eliminated from the playoffs, but with a loss to San Jose last night their chances have diminished substantially. It was only last week that they held the Pacific division lead and were looking very strong, but the wheels came off the bus at exactly the wrong time. It looked like Kari Lehtonen's heavy work schedule took a toll on him, and as his play started to slip, so did the team's performance. The opposite was true in Phoenix, where Mike Smith has defied my expectations and played phenomenal hockey down the stretch. Smith has posted 3 consecutive shutouts while Kari has given up 19 goals in his last 5 games (with the team losing 4 of those games).
Jamie Benn emerged as a star player in this league, pardon the pun. Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder, and Mike Ribeiro have also proven to be very effective players. It's hard to imagine many people had Ryder projected for 35 goals. This mathematician had Ryder projected for 15 goals, coming off an extended playoff run moving to an inferior team. Instead, he doubled my PTS per game projection. Though the rest of the team was remarkably predictable. I predicted Eriksson to have 70 PTS in 79 GP, which is exactly what he has with 2 games remaining. The team lost Goligoski and Morrow for 35 games this year, and those are to valuable pieces of the roster. They also lost Lehtonen for 6 weeks, and Raycroft was hardly impressive as his replacement, going 2-8 before being demoted. Steve Ott exceeded my expectations by 10 PTS.
Next year, the team may or may not be better. They will probably still be a bubble team. I'd rather be an Oilers or Islanders fan.