With only five days left on the NHL schedule, the race for the playoffs is coming to a close, particularly the wild card race. The seeds and matchups are not set yet though, as we have a tight race in both conferences for the wild card spots. In the East there are three teams (Washington, Boston, and Pittsburgh) within three points of each other, and the seeding will come down to the final game of the season.
In the Western conference Vegas, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Nashville are all within seven points of each other. The Canucks are barely clinging on with 87 points, but the other four teams are separated by merely four points. There are so many variations of how these next few days could turn out, and it’s going to be a wild finish to the end of the season.
I’m going to give you the current standings as well as my predicted end of regular season standings, followed by some of my playoff predictions. Read to find out which teams have the easiest road to the Finals and which teams are going to surprise everyone.
Eastern Conference Wild Card race
Atlantic Division seeds:
1) Florida Panthers (120 pts)
2) Toronto Maple Leafs (111 pts)
3) Tampa Bay Lightning (106 pts)
Metro Division Seeds:
1) Carolina Hurricanes (112 pts)
2) New York Rangers (108 pts)
3) Pittsburgh Penguins (101 pts)
Wild Card 1: Boston Bruins (103 pts)
Wild Card 2: Washington Capitals (100 pts)
The Eastern Conferences playoff teams are set, but the matchups are not. Boston is three points behind Tampa Bay while Washington is only one point behind Pittsburgh, and they’ve played less games than the Penguins.
It’s very plausible that the order changes, whether that’s Boston passing Tampa, Washington passing Pittsburgh, or even Washington passing Boston. What we do know is that these eight teams will be the eight teams representing the Eastern Conference in the playoffs. It just comes down to who is going to play who in the first round.
As of now, My predictions for first round matchups are:
1a) Florida Panthers vs (WC2) Pittsburgh Penguins (Florida in 5 games)
1b) Carolina Hurricanes vs (WC1) Boston Bruins (Boston in 6 games)
2) New York Rangers vs (3) Washington Capitals (Washington in 7 games)
2) Toronto Maple Leafs vs (3) Tampa Bay Lightning (Toronto in 6 games)
Western Conference Wild Card race
Pacific Division Seeds:
1) Calgary Flames (108 pts)
2) Edmonton Oilers (98 pts)
3) Los Angeles Kings (96 pts)
Central Division Seeds:
1) Colorado Avalanche (116 pts)
2) Minnesota Wild (109 pts)
3) St. Louis Blues (109 pts)
Wild Card 1: Nashville Predators (94 pts)
Wild Card 2: Dallas Stars (93 pts)
In the Hunt: Vegas Golden Knights (90 pts), Vancouver Canucks (87 pts)
The Western conference has a more complex ending in sight this year. While the L.A. Kings sit in the third spot in the Pacific division, if they fail to win one of their last two games, they could not make the playoffs. Vegas, who has made the playoffs in every season of their existence so far, are on track to miss the playoffs this year. The Knights will play Dallas tonight in an attempt to close the gap to one point between the two teams.
Vegas has won more playoff series in their four year career than the Oilers have since their last Cup Finals appearance 16 years ago. That being said, the Oilers have a phenomenal chance to surprise everyone this year.
Here are my first round Western Conference predictions:
1a) Colorado Avalanche vs (WC2) Dallas Stars (Colorado in 5 games)
1b) Calgary Flames vs (WC1) Nashville Predators (Calgary in 6 games)
2) Minnesota Wild vs (3) St. Louis Blues (Minnesota in 7 games)
2) Edmonton Oilers vs (3) L.A. Kings (Edmonton in 7 games)