The majority of NHL teams have reached the 75-game mark this season, meaning there are seven contests remaining on the schedule. However, it looks like some of the playoff races will likely go down to the wire by being decided on the last day of the season April 6th. The Tampa Bay Lightning were the first to clinch a postseason berth as they recently clinched the President’s Trophy as the league’s top team. This meant they also locked up top spot in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference and will have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
A few other clubs have guaranteed themselves a shot at Stanley Cup glory this spring as the Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets have all clinched a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Over in the East, the only other side to lock up a berth so far is the Boston Bruins. On the other side of the coin, the Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres are officially out of the playoff race in the East with no chance to catch the second wild card team.However, it should just be a matter of time before the Washington Capitals, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins clinch spots in the East. As of March 25th the Carolina Hurricanes held the first wild card spot and had a five-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets with each team having seven game to play. The Montreal Canadiens sat in the second wild card position and were just two points in front of Columbus with the Blue Jackets having a game in hand. The two teams are scheduled to meet each other in a crucial game in Columbus on Thursday, March 28th.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers were still mathematically alive, but highly unlikely to make the playoffs. In the West, the Los Angeles Kings are the only team officially without a chance at reaching the postseason. However, time is quickly running out on the Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers. The Vegas Golden Knights, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues are all on the verge of booking a ticket to the playoffs.
As for the wild card race, the Dallas Stars were sitting in the first wild card position with a one-point lead and a game in hand over the Colorado Avalanche who were in the second wild card spot. The Minnesota Wild and Arizona Coyotes were just two points behind Colorado and the Chicago Blackhawks were alive with an outside chance as they were five points behind with a game in hand on Arizona, Minnesota and Colorado.
With many of the teams that are hunting down a playoff spot still scheduled to play each other the scenario can change from day to day. While some teams are simply trying to make the postseason others are fighting for a better position to try and gain home-ice advantage where possible. Those teams who are already officially out of the races aren’t likely hoping to go on a late-season winning streak since the odds of winning the draft lottery increase the lower they finish in the standings.
It looks like the Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils will be fighting it out for last place overall. It won’t take long to see which team succeeded since the NHL recently announced that the 2019 Draft Lottery will take place on Tuesday, April 9th, just three days after the regular season ends.