The Push for the Playoffs is officially here.
Yesterday marked the Trade Deadline and if you missed any of that, here is our recap of what you missed.
All in all it was very similar to Trade Deadlines of the last few years; a few notable trades in the days before hand and then a relatively quiet day, up until the deadline at 2:00PM Central Time. Many of the trades that happened came right down to that deadline. You could also say that might be the case for many teams’ playoff chances.
As of now, almost every team has 20 games or less remaining in the regular season, in fact the only teams with more than 20 games left are the Boston Bruins (22 games), Florida Panthers (23), Ottawa Senators (21), and Nashville Predators (21). Of those teams, the Bruins and the Predators currently find themselves in a playoff spot (and should remain there baring any catastrophic, Chernobyl size meltdowns) and the Panthers could be able to use those games in hand to catch up on some of the teams ahead of them and become the feel-good story leading up to the playoffs (with all due respect to the Vegas Golden Knights and their record-breaking inaugural season). An interesting twist with the Panthers and the Bruins is that they play each other on what will be the last day of the regular season, on Sunday April 8th (the only game that day due to a winter storm earlier in the year). As for the Senators, they are a lost cause, that’s about the only good way to put it for them right now. But there is still much to be decided so let’s try to sort some of it out before this final push for the playoffs begin.
(Note: The top three teams in each division make the playoffs followed by two wild card teams (teams with the most points after the three divisional playoff teams) in each conference. Therefor, each conference will have 8 playoff teams.)
The whole year the top of the Atlantic Division and the entire league for that matter has belonged to the Tampa Bay Lighting. They currently have 89 points and got stronger after the Trade Deadline. Expect them to finish 1st in the division and even the league. After them is the Toronto Maple Leafs with 84 points, then the Bruins with 82 points. These two will make the playoffs as the next closest team to them is the Panthers with 62 points and their only real way of making it to the dance is via a Wild Card spot. That about does it for the Atlantic Division that has been pretty lopsided for most of the season, but here is what the standings look like:
|Tampa Bay Lightning||89 pts|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||84|
|Detroit Red Wings||62|
Here is where the real fun starts for the Eastern Conference. While the Atlantic has the top three teams in the Conference, the 5 remaining teams will most likely (looking at you Panthers) come from the Metro. Here is how they currently shape up:
|Philadelphia Flyers||78 pts|
|New Jersey Devils||72|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||69|
|New York Islanders||65|
|New York Rangers||60|
As you can see, things are incredibly tight and virtually every night there are changes within the division. For starters, you can just about cross out the Rangers as they sold most of their team at the Trade Deadline and are a shell of an NHL team. As noted, the top three teams will make the playoffs, and as it looks that should be the Flyers, Penguins, and Capitals . After that, two Wild Card teams will make it, and depending on how the Panthers fair in the Atlantic, that leaves 5 teams fighting for two spots. To make things even more interesting, each team in the Metro has 19 games remaining except the Devils and Hurricanes who have 20. These teams will also be playing more divisional games down the stretch so buckle up, it is going to be a fight to the finish.
Welcome to the Wild, Wild West where there are 3 teams just about guaranteed to make it to the post season based on their success to this point, 4 teams not making it due to their lack of points, and then 8 teams jockeying for the final five spots. You can’t make this stuff up.
The Pacific Division has been owned by one team all season….the Vegas Golden Knights. Yes, in case you didn’t know or have been living under a rock, the Golden Knights are very much for real and are a legitimate threat to contest for the Stanley Cup as they have their division accounted for and have for some time. After the Golden Knights, the field is wide open:
|Vegas Golden Knights||87 pts|
|San Jose Sharks||75|
|Los Angeles Kings||73|
To start, the Oilers, Canucks, and Coyotes will be on the greens in just over a month wearing their funny looking pants so scratch them off the list. The 2nd seed as well as the 3rd seed are up for grabs, right now the two spots are being held by the Sharks and the Ducks. For the teams in playoff contention, each team has 19 games remaining except for the Golden Knights (20) and the Ducks (18). The Ducks also trail in Regulation or Overtime Wins (ROW) which is the final tie breaker when it comes down to playoff seeding. They have 27 which is at least 2 less than the other playoff hopeful teams. If the pressure within the Pacific Division wasn’t enough for the teams hoping to play past the first weekend in April, they will have to fight some teams in the Central Division as well…
It has been a two team race in the Central, but the rest is a mess:
|Nashville Predators||85 pts|
|St. Louis Blues||72|
The defending Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators have just about assured themselves home ice in at least the first round of the playoffs, and hot on their tail is the Winnipeg Jets. Both teams have made some solid moves at the deadline and before to be well equip for a playoff run. Rounding out the top three is the surging Wild who have flown past the struggling-as-of-late Stars and Blues. Not far behind is an Avalanche team that is about as up and down as the weather during February in Nebraska (their injuries don’t help that matter), but if they can catch another hot streak (they won 10 straight games earlier in the year), don’t count them out just yet. The most shocking team is the Chicago Blackhawks who will miss the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.
So if you’re still following along, this is what the current Wild Card picture looks like in the West after the current division leaders (keep in mind only the top two teams will make it):
|Dallas Stars||74 pts||20 games remaining||31 ROW|
|Los Angeles Kings||73||19||32|
|St. Louis Blues||72||19||31|
While 20 games may seem like a lot on paper, it can be extremely difficult to make up much ground with that little of time left in the regular season in the NHL. The rest of the way will be much see entertainment and then the real fun begins in mid April: The Stanley Cup Playoffs.