- With only a handful of games left, there are several teams still trying to solidify their postseason status. How will the wild-card race shake out?
The playoffs are almost here and the seeds are almost set.
So far we know the top tier of teams (Tampa Bay, Washington, Boston, Calgary, Vegas) and we know the second tier (Winnipeg, Toronto, San Jose, Islanders, Pittsburgh, Nashville, St. Louis). But it’s the third and final tier that we’ll all be focused on this week.
It’s a three-way battle for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference as the Blue Jackets have recently been gaining some ground with their trade-deadline moves finally clicking. Carolina and Montreal are right behind them, but it’s the Canadiens who face the toughest obstacles in their final week. With three games left, the Habs will face the Lightning, Capitals and Maple Leafs; so that’s the league’s best team, followed by the defending Stanley Cup champs and capped off with their rival. Should be fun to watch.
Out West, the Stars, Avalanche and Coyotes round out the third tier. Dallas holds a four-point lead for the first wild-card spot, but as of Monday only one point separates Colorado and Arizona, which closes out the season with games against Vegas and Winnipeg.
And for all those tiers, that the only thing that really matters at the end of this week is hot goaltending, great special teams and a whole lot of puck luck. No wonder we love the playoffs so much.
31. Ottawa Senators | Record: 28-44-6 | Previous Ranking: 31
Anthony Duclair has the potential to be a nice pickup for the Sens.
30. Los Angeles Kings | Record: 29-40-9 | Previous Ranking: 30
If L.A. is smart, trading Jonathan Quick should be in order. A first-round pick and a prospect from Calgary? Seems reasonable. Jack Campbell looks ready.
29. Detroit Red Wings | Record: 31-38-10 | Previous Ranking: 29
Some nice wins against Vegas and San Jose.
28. New Jersey Devils | Record: 29-40-10 | Previous Ranking: 28
Pavel Zacha is a RFA. Will he be worth re-signing? He's been underwhelming, to say the least.
27. Buffalo Sabres | Record: 31-38-10 | Previous Ranking: 25
Boy, did everyone—these rankings included—fall for the 10-game winning streak. Perhaps it bodes well for the future, to see that it can be done. But the fall afterwards is much more concerning.
26. New York Rangers | Record: 31-34-13 | Previous Ranking: 27
Looks like the Rangers have a goalie of the future in Alexandar Georgiev.
25. Vancouver Canucks | Record: 34-35-10 | Previous Ranking: 23
One more year of Jacob Markstrom? Not sure how tenable that is.
24. Anaheim Ducks | Record: 33-37-10 | Previous Ranking: 26
Barely used in Pittsburgh, Daniel Sprong has been good for Anaheim.
23. Chicago Blackhawks | Record: 34-33-11 | Previous Ranking: 22
Even though it hasn't been the best season for the Blackhawks, the duo of Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat going forward will be fun.
22. Edmonton Oilers | Record: 34-35-9 | Previous Ranking: 24
If anything, it's still fun to watch Connor McDavid work.
21. Florida Panthers | Record: 35-32-12 | Previous Ranking: 21
It'll be a well-deserved swan song for Roberto Luongo the rest of the way.
20. Minnesota Wild | Record: 36-34-9 | Previous Ranking: 20
The Wild had a tough loss against Nashville. Can't beat Vegas and then get shutout by the Yotes, closing out any hope of a wild-card spot.
19. Philadelphia Flyers | Record: 37-34-8 | Previous Ranking: 18
If anything, it has to be promising to watch Carter Hart and see a hopeful future in net for once for Philly.
18. Colorado Avalanche | Record: 36-29-13 | Previous Ranking: 19
Break up the Avs! Winning, believe it or not, with defense.
17. Arizona Coyotes | Record: 38-33-8 | Previous Ranking: 17
A tough way to end the season: Games against Colorado, Minnesota, Vegas and Winnipeg. But looks like Darcy Kuemper could be up for it.
16. Dallas Stars | Record: 41-31-7 | Previous Ranking: 14
A real impressive win in Winnipeg, followed by a nice showing against Calgary.
15. Columbus Blue Jackets | Record: 45-30-4 | Previous Ranking: 15
Break up the Jackets! Now this is what they had in mind after the deadline.
14. Montreal Canadiens | Record: 42-29-8 | Previous Ranking: 16
No one is beating Columbus these days, but a nice victory against Winnipeg. Tuesday's matchup against Tampa Bay will be a good indicator of how they can finish this week.
13. St. Louis Blues | Record: 42-28-8 | Previous Ranking: 13
While Elias Pettersson is a remarkable player, Jordan Binnington has been invaluable to St. Louis and should be the leader for the Calder.
12. Carolina Hurricanes | Record: 43-29-7 | Previous Ranking: 11
Back-to-back losses to Washington tell us that Carolina is not ready for primetime.
11. Nashville Predators | Record: 44-29-6 | Previous Ranking: 9
Splitting against Pittsburgh and Columbus is keeping with the second half of the Preds season.
10. New York Islanders | Record: 46-26-7 | Previous Ranking: 10
Nice win against the Jets. The Isles are in playoff shape.
9. Pittsburgh Penguins | Record: 43-25-11 | Previous Ranking: 12
A quiet rise, led by a fantastic year by Jake Guentzel, who has 38 goals and 72 points.
8. San Jose Sharks | Record: 44-25-9 | Previous Ranking: 5
Let's hold judgment on this recent slide until Erik Karlsson comes back.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs | Record: 45-26-7 | Previous Ranking: 8
Yes, Toronto has struggled in recent days. But in a seven-game series, it's still going to be tough to stop Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and John Tavares.
6. Winnipeg Jets | Record: 45-29-4 | Previous Ranking: 7
A few troubling losses in recent days to Vegas and Dallas, followed by defeats against the Islanders and Habs.
5. Calgary Flames | Record: 48-23-7 | Previous Ranking: 3
Looking more and more that Mike Smith will be the goalie come playoff time.
4. Vegas Golden Knights | Record: 42-30-7 | Previous Ranking: 6
Yes, Vegas is behind a bunch of teams in the standings, but there are few teams playing better.
3. Boston Bruins | Record: 47-23-9 | Previous Ranking: 2
A collapse against Tampa Bay in the third? Not great a look, at least for long-term playoff hopes.
2. Washington Capitals | Record: 47-24-8 | Previous Ranking: 4
A statement win against Tampa Bay? Think so.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning | Record: 59-15-4 | Previous Ranking: 1
Let's look at the teams the Bolts have beat in recent days—Boston, Carolina, Washington (one out of two), Arizona and Toronto. Think they're ready for the playoffs.