March 28, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa (5) and goalie Jonas Hiller (1) celebrate the 3-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Around The Pacific: The End

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This is it. The final week of the season. Everything has flipped from last week. The standings are different, the situations are different, everything is up in the air. This time next week we’ll know where everyone stands. We’ll know who’s in the playoffs. We’ll know who’s going to go home until next year. This is the end.. Are you ready?

Mar 24, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings players celebrate after a goal by Kings defenseman Slava Voynov (26) against the Boston Bruins during the third period at the Staples Center. The Boston Bruins defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

1. Los Angeles Kings: (39-27-13, 91 points)

Since Last Week: The Kings continued to pick up points, and in doing so climbed the standings to put themselves on top of the Pacific Division. They were fortunate enough to play the struggling Flames and Oilers in their two victories, but dropped two games to Vancouver and Minnesota. It still remains to be seen if this team is the real deal. They’ve floated around all year, not completely tanking, but not living up to their own standards. They have a tenuous hold on the division, but can it last?

Trending: Neutral. A shootout loss to Minnesota isn’t very impressive, but they did pick up two solid wins to keep them in the race. The schedule ahead will prove where they really stand.

Looking Ahead: And that schedule features an “easy” game versus the Oilers TONIGHT, but then two monstrous games against the San Jose Sharks in a home and home series. More on that later when we look at the San Jose Sharks themselves.

March 31, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Phoenix Coyotes right wing Radim Vrbata (17) gives the puck to Ray Whitney (13) after Whitney records his 1000th cereer point in the second period against the Anaheim Ducks at Jobing.com. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE

2. Phoenix Coyotes: (39-27-13, 91 points)

Since Last Week: They may have had only two games over the last week, but the Coyotes are getting hot at the right time. Two games. Two wins. Two shutouts. Both games were versus division opponents San Jose and Anaheim. Mike Smith continues to be a revelation for this team, and he’s just been absolutely incredible. The team is tied for first in the Pacific Division and if they keep this up they can steal the crown right out from under the rest of the division.

Trending: Up. Their stellar play is part of this trend, but the schedule ahead is the chief reason things are looking up for the Coyotes.

Looking Ahead: The Coyotes are the only Pacific team in the race that doesn’t have to face a division opponent in these final three games. Compared to LA, Dallas, and San Jose, the ‘Yotes have a cakewalk. First they’ll host the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, then play the Blues (the only real challenge), and finish off the season against Minnesota. Of course, no one’s going to take Columbus and Minnesota for granted, but things sure do look good for the Coyotes.

Mar 31, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; The San Jose Sharks celebrate after the game against the Dallas Stars at HP Pavilion. San Jose defeated Dallas 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

3. San Jose Sharks: (40-29-10, 90 points)

Since Last Week: San Jose continued their up and down, inconsistent, disconcerting hockey throughout the week. I’m sure the sweat is still building up on all the Sharks’ fans foreheads, who must realize that they may actually miss the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade. It’s a pretty horrible feeling, isn’t it? They went 2-2 over the week, with the most recent victory of the Stars putting them back into eighth place, but they remain far from safety.

Trending: Neutral. They haven’t been able to put together any form of consistent play, but they have been picking up points to keep them in the race.

Looking Ahead: San Jose has the most important schedule of any of these teams. Their final games are against the Stars, Kings, and the Kings again. They are truly the “win and your in” situation. They completely and totally control whether or not they make it in. That home and home against the Kings might as well be a playoff series. It could be do or die for those teams, and it’s going to be one hell of a series.

Mar 20, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars center Mike Ribeiro (63) waits for play to resume against the Phoenix Coyotes during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Coyotes 4-3 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

4. Dallas Stars: (42-32-5, 89 points)

Since Last Week: Last week they were sitting on top of the division. Now they’re in ninth place of the conference. Those sentences should accurately show the insanity of this division. But a 1-3 record over the last week isn’t doing themselves any favors. They lose a game to Calgary thanks to their own stupidity, didn’t show up for a game versus the Canucks, and then were shut out by the San Jose Sharks. The only saving grace were the two points they grabbed from Edmonton. They put themselves here, they’ll have to dig themselves out.

Trending: Neutral. They also control their own destiny, but it’s a much more difficult path.

Looking Ahead: April 3rd is the night. Dallas is the location. Stars vs. Sharks is the situation. It’s the single biggest game of the year. If the Stars lose they are virtually eliminated from the playoffs, win and they control their own path into the promised land. The AAC is already expected to be a near sell out at the least, and it’s going to be a raucous playoff atmosphere. Will you be there? Even if the Stars pick up a win, they still have to face the Predators and the Blues, two of the West’s best. Like I said, it’s a difficult path. But the Stars have to prove themselves.

5. Anaheim Ducks: (33-35-11, 77 points)

Since Last Week: The Ducks continued their spoiler role with a huge defeat of the San Jose Sharks, but then dropped two against Phoenix and Edmonton. The Ducks almost become a non-factor now, as their schedule doesn’t feature any notable match ups that could have any effect on the race. It’s time to look forward to next year for these Ducks.

Trending: Neutral. It is what it is. Finish strong, finish weak, either way this team is focused on returning with a vengeance next year.

Looking Ahead: They finish the season on a three-game road trip through Western Canada. No real implications in any of the games, it’s just a final week of hockey to play.

 

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Tags: Anaheim Ducks Anze Kopitar Brenden Morrow Dallas Stars Dave Tippet Jamie Benn Jeff Carter Joe Pavelski Joe Thornton Jonathan Quick Logan Couture Los Angeles Kings Loui Eriksson Michael Ryder Mike Ribeiro Mike Richards Mike Smith Phoenix Coyotes Radim Vrbata Ray Whitney Reilly Smith San Jose Sharks

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