T-minus five days until the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin! A few teams having already clinched a spot, but the wild card spots are a tight race. This season has been one of the most competitive seasons as points were close all year long. We’re going to take a look at each conference and predict who will clinch the remaining spots.
The Calgary Flames (1) and the San Jose Sharks (2) have already clinched spots in the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. The Vegas Golden Knights have the opportunity to clinch if they get one point against Colorado on Wednesday. All three of the top seeds in the Pacific Division will be taken by these teams. The Central Division’s Winnipeg Jets (1) and the Nashville Predators (2) have clinched spots in their divisions. St. Louis currently occupies the third seed in the Central Division and will keep that spot for the remainder of the season. So far in the West, four teams have officially clinched and two more will clinch very soon. Now its time for the wild card race in the West.
Western Conference Wild Card Race
The Western Conference wild card race is very tight. The Dallas Stars hava been in the first wild card spot for some time now. They will get back to the playoffs with that first wild card spot. The real race lies amongst the Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes, and the Minnesota Wild. These teams have been trading places in the standings for the past month and it’s coming down to the final stretch.
The Arizona Coyotes defeated the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night and that will keep Chicago down in the standings. Colorado defeated Vegas 4-3 on Wednesday and now have sole possession of the second wild card spot. Minnesota faces Vegas on Friday and both Colorado and Arizona need Minnesota to lose. Arizona and Colorado face each other this Friday and it is do or die for the Coyotes; if Colorado wins, they will have a commanding lead and will capture the spot.
Only two teams can occupy those spots, but Dallas will take the first wild card spot and the Colorado Avalanche will occupy the second wild card spot. Colorado has scored at least three goals in five of their last seven games. Arizona hasn’t been able to find any consistent offense as of late. On their four-game road trip they went 0-3-1 scoring four goals in those four games. Unless Arizona can heat up offensively once again, Colorado will capture the second wild card spot.
The matchups for the West will be:
Calgary Flames (1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (WC2) Winnipeg Jets (1) vs. Dallas Stars (WC1) Nashville Predators (2) vs. St. Louis Blues (3) San Jose (2) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (3)
The Eastern Conference still has teams that haven’t clinched yet. The Tampa Bay Lightning (1) and the Boston Bruins (2) have already clinched. Tampa Bay has home-ice advantage as they won the President’s Trophy, the team with the most points (122). The Toronto Maple Leafs (3) occupy the third seed and will keep that spot for the remaining games. These will be the top three seeds in the Atlantic Division.
The Metropolitan Division, however, is still up for grabs. The Washington Capitals currently hold the first seed with 98 points, but the Pittsburgh Penguins (2) and the New York Islanders (3) are only three points behind. With five games remaining, the division is still up for grabs, however, the seeds will stay the same.
The Capitals have been hot as of late winning their last two games scoring seven goals. Goalie Braden Holtby has only allowed two goals in those two games. The defending Stanley Cup champions will win the Metropolitan Division and have home-ice advantage. The Penguins and the Islanders will stay the same.
Eastern Conference Wild Card Race
It may not be as tight as the Western Conference’s wild card race, but it’s still close. The Carolina Hurricanes currently occupy the first wild card spot, but the Montreal Canadiens are one point behind them. Carolina is looking to end their nine-year playoff drought.
Columbus is the biggest story here though. Columbus had one of the busiest trade deadline days as they acquired some big names like Matt Duchene, defenseman Adam McQuaid, back-up goalie Keith Kinkaid, and Ryan Dzingel. These were some of the biggest names in the trade deadline this year. Columbus gave up seven future draft picks, two of them first rounders, yet they’re on the outside and looking into the playoff picture. On top of that, forward Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, along with their newly acquired players, are all going to be UFA’s at the end of the year. Despite the busy offseason, Columbus will, unfortunately, miss the playoffs and Montreal will capture the second wild card spot.
The Eastern Conference playoff bracket will be:
- Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (WC2)
- Washington Capitals (1) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (WC1)
- Boston Bruins (2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (3)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs. New York Islanders (3)
These will be the matchups; the teams that will battle it out for Lord Stanley’s Cup! Who will win will never be an easy question to answer as anything is possible in the playoffs.