Unless you're the Portland Winter Hawks . . . you're in one.
It doesn't matter if it's the East, Central, B.C., or U.S. division, there is a playoff race to be had either at the top or at the bottom. Only Portland has been officially eliminated from post-season contention.
In the U.S. division, the four teams are set with Everett getting close to clinching the division crown. They lead 2nd place Tri-City by 18 points. 2nd spot through 4th is up for grabs. Here's how it shakes down:
Tri City - 72 points - 16 games remaining
Spokane - 68 points - 13 games remaining
Seattle - 65 points - 14 games remaining
The B.C. division has two great races to follow down the stretch - one for the division title, the other for the last playoff spot. With Prince George firmly planted in third, the Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers should battle to the final weekend for the banner. Here's how it looks:
Vancouver 81 points - 14 games remaining
Kamloops 79 points - 15 games remaining
If the teams end up tied, the tie-breaker would likely go to Kamloops who presently have more wins and have already won the season series.
The battle for the final playoff spot is between Kelowna and Chilliwack:
Kelowna 42 points - 15 games remaining
Chilliwack 39 points - 13 games remaining
Whoever makes the post-season from these teams will be in tough. They will likely get their token playoff revenue from games three and four. The hometown fans will then get to say goodbye and salute the team's 20 year-old players.
The Central division also has some great playoff races. First, for the division title between Medicine Hat and Kootenay. Here's how it looks:
Medicine Hat 92 points - 11 games remaining
Kootenay 86 points - 13 games remaining
The Tigers don't appear like the foot will be taken off the gas pedal anytime soon. With 15 wins in a row, the Tigers are in control. The Ice may need to win all 13 games if they even want a shot at the division crown.
There is a three-way battle for the final two playoff spots between Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge. Calgary isn't out of the woods yet, even though they have an 8 point lead over 5th place Lethbridge. Here's the breakdown:
Calgary 69 points - 12 games remaining
Red Deer 66 points - 13 games remaining
Lethbridge 61 points - 14 games remaining
Of Red Deer's last 13 games - 12 are against teams with a record over .500, the last week of the regular season may tell the story. The Rebels play Calgary twice and Lethbridge twice all in a span of 7 days! It's like the schedule makers had a crystal ball.
As for Lethbridge, they play 10 straight games on the road beginning Friday in Chilliwack. Their building is being used for the Scott Tournament of Hearts and will have to get it done on the road. Of their 14 games remaining, only 8 are against teams with records above .500. They still have games against Kelowna, Chilliwack, Portland, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and Saskatoon. Even though they trail Red Deer by five points for the last spot, my money is on the 'Canes to get into the post-season.
Of course the East division has some battles too. Brandon by no means has clinched the division, but a 10 point gap will be tough to close for the Regina Pats. The Pats are hot but making up 10 points at this point is a stretch. Brandon only has two games left on the road.
The real battle is for playoff spots with Prince Albert, Swift Current, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw.
Here's the breakdown:
Prince Albert - 54 points - 15 games remaining
Swift Current - 53 points - 14 games remaining
Saskatoon - 46 points - 17 games remaining
Moose Jaw - 43 points - 16 games remaining
I've looked over the schedules for all teams at length. Every team has about the same looking schedule. It will be the head-to-head battles that decide the outcome. Swift Current and Prince Albert still play each other three times beginning tomorrow night at the Civic Center. Swift Current, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw all play each other twice.
I like this time of year almost more than the playoffs. There is something on the line every night whether you're playing or scoreboard watching. Enjoy the stretch run!