Who will grab final playoff spots in West?

Will the defending Stanley Cup champs be back to defend their crown this spring? Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The games on Monday night further prove why the Western Conference playoff race is becoming so hard to call. The moment you think the Los Angeles Kings are going to solidify their playoff spot or the Calgary Flames are going to drop out, another night of games puts that theory on hold.

The Kings lost their second consecutive game, this time to their rival Chicago Blackhawks. The Flames? All they did was take on a hot Dallas Stars team and run goalie Kari Lehtonen right out of the game in a 5-3 win.

By now, we know what the analytics suggest about the Flames (it’s not good). We know what the expectations are for the reigning Stanley Cup champs (they always find a way). And we also know that it’s simply not automatically going to play out that way as the season enters its final stretch.

So we enlisted the help of a panel of people in the game that included players from each conference, a coach and executive, and all were given anonymity to encourage more honesty. They were asked to make a hard call on who is in and who is out in the Western Conference playoff race.

Here was the consensus