We’re down to the final push for the playoffs in the NHL regular season. We’ve got one week to go before the Stanley Cup playoffs. There are plenty of teams jockeying for position or even just a playoff spot. By the end of Sunday night, we’ll find out who’s in and who’s out.
If you’ve got thoughts on who you think will make it in, comment below or tweet me @DanMountSports.
Here’s a breakdown of who’s locked in and who’s barely got a pulse. The number of games left will be in parentheses.
Boston: (4) Overall 1st seed in the Eastern Conference; lead St. Louis by two points for the President’s Trophy (best overall regular season record.) Will play second wild card in opening round.
Montreal: (3) Assured no lower than the three seed in the Atlantic Division.
Tampa Bay: (4) Trails Montreal by four points for home ice in first round series.
Up for grabs: The second seed in the probable playoff series between the Canadiens and the Lightning is still in flux. Montreal has tough games against Chicago and the Rangers, so that may open the door for Tampa. However, the Lightning have to face four teams that are hungry for points. (Toronto, Columbus and Washington are fighting for their playoff lives.)
Pittsburgh: (3) Clinched division and second seed in the conference. Will play first wild card in opening round.
Not yet decided
New York Rangers: (3) Currently in second and hold two point lead over Philadelphia for second in division. Clinched a playoff spot.
Philadelphia: (4) Third in division, but have a game in hand on the Ranger.
Up for grabs: The Rangers have three more wins and would get the tiebreaker on the Flyers if the teams are tied with the same number of points. New York has games against also-rans Carolina and Buffalo and should sew up a spot in the playoffs. Philadelphia has to deal with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh before finishing up with Carolina. The plus side could have the Lightning and Penguins just playing out the string as playoff positions could be decided by then.
Current wild cards
Detroit (4): Hold first wild card spot by one point over Columbus.
Columbus (4): Hold second wild card spot by three over Toronto and New Jersey.
Toronto (3): Trails by Columbus by three points.
New Jersey (3): Trails by Columbus by three points.
Washington (4): Trails by seven points.
Ottawa (4): Trails by eight points.
Up for grabs: The Red Wings have a pair of winnable games (Sabres, Hurricanes) and pair of tricky ones (Penguins, Blues). Pittsburgh may take it easy and St. Louis may have lost out on its shot at the President’s Trophy.
Columbus has four games in five days, but Sergei Bobrovsky has been at his best late in the season.
Toronto and New Jersey have to win out and hope that Detroit and/or Columbus falter. Washington and Ottawa are still mathematically alive, but on life support.
St. Louis (4): Hold first over Colorado by four points. Lead Anaheim by three for West number one seed.
Colorado (4): Two points ahead of Chicago for second. Can’t finish lower than third.
Chicago (3): Guaranteed at least third place.
Up for grabs: The Blues have to play four games against desperate opponents, while having to deal with Colorado. The Avs can’t coast either or the Blackhawks could slide into the two spot.
Anaheim (4): Leads San Jose by a point with a game in hand. Can’t finish lower than second.
San Jose (3): Can finish first, but can’t be worse than second.
Los Angeles (3): Locked into third postion.
Up for grabs: The Ducks and Sharks could decide the division on Wednesday night. I’m sure either team would like to avoid the dangerous Kings in round two.
Minnesota (3): Lead Dallas for first wild card spot by seven points over Dallas.
Dallas (4): Lead Phoenix by one point for second wild card.
Phoenix (4): Trail Stars by a point.
Vancouver (4): Trail Dallas by six points.
Nashville (4): Trail Dallas by six points.
Up for grabs: Minnesota basically has a wild card spot sewn up and will face the division winner with the fewest points. Dallas has stayed in the race despite Rich Peverley and Kari Lehtonen missing time. The Stars and Coyotes could decide the last spot in the last regular season game of the year. If this is the case, give the schedule maker a nice bonus.
It’s that time of the week where I take a look at the happy, heinous and hilarious with First star, Worst star and Who blew up the Death Star?
We go to the OHL as Red Wings’ prospect Andreas Athanasiou scores this sizzling goal for the Barrie Colts against the North Bay Battalion.
The Canadiens’ Douglas Murray cheap shots Mike Kostka of Tampa Bay.
Who blew up the Death Star?
Just call him Christian “Ear-of.” (Not for the squeamish. You’ve been warned.)
That’s it for today. I’ll check you later this week with a NCAA Frozen Four preview and a final preview of this weekend’s playoff scenarios. Take care.
Dan Mount in an NHL writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.