Elite League Playoff Seeding: Battle for Fourth in Nottingham Panthers’ Hands

Josh Tetlow in action for the Panthers (Image: Panthers Images)

There’s still plenty left to play for in the Elite League, even though we already know which eight teams will contest the playoffs and who won the regular season title.

While the Belfast Giants, Sheffield Steelers, and Cardiff Devils are locked in at first through third, every other position in the standings is still up for grabs with a dozen games left to play.

As the playoffs swing into view, let’s break down what teams are fighting for in the final week of the season.

Avoiding Injuries Key for Belfast, Sheffield, Cardiff

Aside from individual awards and collective pride, there’s nothing left to play for in Belfast, Sheffield, and Cardiff. As a result, the top three are focused on avoiding injuries in the final week of the season.

The Elite League’s 54-game schedule is physically demanding, especially for netminders who have faced a high volume of shots this season. It’s therefore worth keeping an eye on who is instructed to fill the crease for the EIHL’s top clubs this week.

Belfast Giants, Elite League Champions 2021-22 (Image: Dean Woolley)
Belfast Giants, Elite League Champions 2021-22 (Image: Dean Woolley)

The Steelers, Devils, and – to a lesser extent – Giants have pride to play for this week.

In Sheffield, Aaron Fox is hoping his team will bounce back from their title race disappointment on Wednesday versus Belfast. In Cardiff, the Devils must put off-ice distractions behind them if they are to carry momentum into the playoffs.

Across the Irish Sea, Scott Conway and J.J. Piccinich are exchanging friendly fire in their race to finish the season as the Elite League’s top scorer.

Related: Will Giants’ J.J. Piccinich Scoop Three Individual Awards in Debut EIHL Season?

In other words, the final week of the season isn’t really about results for the top three. Their playoff berths are guaranteed, leaving them focused on staying healthy for the postseason.

Nottingham Panthers Control the Race for Fourth

The Nottingham Panthers find themselves in an awkward position heading down the stretch. They should’ve locked in fourth position weeks ago… but are still vulnerable to pressure from behind with two matches left to play.

Here’s how the standings look before puck drop on Wednesday [13] April:

Elite League standings, correct as of Wednesday 13 April
Elite League standings, correct as of Wednesday 13 April

And here are the fixtures left to play:

 

BEL SHE CAR NOT COV GUI DUN GLA MAN FIF

13/04

GLA (A) COV (H) NOT (A)

SHE (H)

15/04

SHE (H) BEL (A) FIF (H)

DUN (A)

16/04

COV (H) BEL (A) MAN (A) FIF (H) GUI (H)

GLA (A)

17/04

DUN (H) CAR (A)

18/04

NOT (A) CAR (H) DUN (H) MAN (H) COV (A) FIF (A) GUI (A)

GLA (H)

Maximum Points 88 84 74 57 56 54 55 53 44

43

To summarise, a fourth-place finish is in Nottingham’s hands.

The Panthers will move onto 55 points and 22 regulation wins if they beat the Blaze tonight, knocking Coventry and the Guildford Flames out of the chase for fourth on points.

What’s more, a regulation-time win for Nottingham would end the race altogether. Even if the Dundee Stars end the season 3-0-0, they would still only have 21 regulation wins on the season – one short of the Panthers’ tally.

Coventry Blaze, Guildford Flames, Dundee Stars in Elite League Playoff Seeding Battle

Although Coventry, Guildford, and Dundee could still end as the fourth seed, a fifth-place finish is more likely considering the Panthers’ head start.

However, there isn’t that much of a difference between finishing fourth and fifth by the time the playoffs roll around. This, remember, is how the playoff bracket is set:

  • (1) Belfast Giants v TBD (8)
  • (2) Sheffield Steelers v TBD (7)
  • (3) Cardiff Devils v TBD (6)
  • (4) TBD v TBD (5)

As a result, clinching the fifth seed is incredibly important for teams in the bottom half of the Elite League standings. If they want to qualify for Playoff Finals Weekend, avoiding Belfast, Sheffield, and Cardiff in round one will be handy!

Here’s the issue: the battle for fifth is a complete tossup.

Although Danny Stewart’s Blaze are in pole position, they have a difficult slate of games to finish the season and one less regulation win than Dundee. However, the Stars also have a tricky schedule – which could open the door for Guildford, who play the Manchester Storm twice this week. It’s tight… and likely to go down to the final day.

Glasgow Clan Have Nothing to Lose in Elite League Playoff Seeding Fight

Unlike the teams above them in the standings, the Glasgow Clan enter the final week of play pressure-free. They’ve already qualified for the playoffs and head down the stretch in eighth position, two points behind Dundee.

However, Malcolm Cameron’s team still have plenty to play for. The Clan’s fixture list is relatively kind, opening the door for a late change up the standings if results go their way.

It could be quite the week for Glasgow.

Manchester Storm, Fife Flyers Seek to Avoid Wooden Spoon

Although the Storm and Fife Flyers are already out of playoff contention, the final week of the season could still be a fun ride for their fans.

Manchester face Guildford twice, meaning Ryan Finnerty’s side could throw a spanner in the works in the race for seeding. The same applies to the Flyers, they’ve got dates with Scottish rivals Dundee and Glasgow coming up.

There’s also the battle for ninth to consider. Briefly.


Elite League Playoff Seeding: which teams will finish fourth and fifth in the standings? Join the conversation on Twitter.

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