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NHL Playoff Picture 2017: Bracket Predictions and Teams to Watch

The Boston Bruins improved their playoff position with a win over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night.

The Boston Bruins improved their playoff position with a win over the Nashville Predators Tuesday night.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2017

It was a good night for the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, as both teams inched closer to a spot in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs

The Bruins stopped the red-hot Nashville Predators 4-1, and they increased their advantage for the No. 2 wild-card spot to three points over the idle Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Maple Leafs held off the Bruins for the No. 3 spot in the Atlantic Division as they defeated the Florida Panthers 3-2, and that allowed them to stay one point ahead of Boston.

The first-place Montreal Canadiens continued to play well under Claude Julien, as they spotted the Dallas Stars the first goal of the game before rebounding to record a 3-1 victory.

The Ottawa Senators were the only Atlantic Division side to lose as they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers in a game that was decided in a shootout.

NHL Playoff Predictions
Eastern Washington Capitals 7 In First in Metropolitan
Eastern Columbus Blue Jackets 7 In Second in Metropolitan
Eastern Pittsburgh Penguins 7 In Third in Metropolitatn
Eastern Montreal Canadiens 6 In First in Atlantic
Eastern Ottawa Senators 7 In Second in Atlantic
Eastern Toronto Maple Leafs 7 In Third in Atlantic
Eastern New York Rangers 5 In No. 1 Wild Card
Eastern Boston Bruins 6 In No. 2 Wild Card
Eastern Tampa Bay Lightning 7 Out
Eastern New York Islanders 7 Out
Eastern Philadelphia Flyers 6 Out
Eastern Carolina Hurricanes 7 Out
Eastern Florida Panthers 6 Out
Western Chicago Blackhawks 6 In First in Central
Western Minnesota Wild 6 In Second in Central
Western St. Louis Blues 7 In Third in Central
Western Anaheim Ducks 6 In First in Pacific
Western San Jose Sharks 6 In Second in Pacific
Western Edmonton Oilers 6 In Third in Pacific
Western Calgary Flames 6 In No. 1 Wild Card
Western Nashville Predators 6 In No. 2 Wild Card
Western Los Angeles Kings 7 Out
NHL.com; Silverman predictions

The Bruins are trying to pass the Maple Leafs and hold off the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New York Islanders, the streaking Carolina Hurricanes and the Flyers.

The Columbus Blue Jackets picked up a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, and they have 105 points for the season. They remain three points behind the Washington Capitals, who picked up a tough 5-4 overtime win on the road against the Minnesota Wild.

The Bruins and Maple Leafs improved their playoff positioning, but neither team has anything clinched at this point. Boston will host the Stars Thursday night, while Toronto will visit Nashville.

The Lightning and Hurricanes appear to be the biggest threats to snare the second wild-card position, while the former could also reach the third-place spot in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay has won three games in a row and seven of the last 10, while Carolina has reeled off a 7-0-3 record in their last 10 matches.

The Bruins have two things going for them down the stretch. Five of their six remaining games are at home, and they also have 38 regulation or overtime wins (ROW). That’s three more than the Maple Leafs, five more than the Lightning and Islanders, and six more than the Hurricanes. That advantage would be the first tiebreaker at the conclusion of the regular season on April 9.

These are the five teams to watch in the final days of the season since they are fighting for the available playoff spots.

The Western Conference has been fairly clear cut with the Chicago Blackhawks leading the way with the Wild and Predators in second and third place, respectively, in the Central Division.

The Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks are in the top three spots in the Pacific Division, while the Calgary Flames and the St. Louis Blues are in the two wild-card berths.

The Ducks, Oilers and Sharks have clinched playoff spots, and for the Oilers, it’s their first playoff place since 2006.

“It’s definitely special, you saw the excitement in the building,” Oilers star center Connor McDavid said after the game, per Derek Van Diest of NHL.com. “The fans are excited, we’re excited. There is a lot of work left to be done still.” 

The Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets (both with 77 points) are the closest pursuers to the St. Louis Blues (88 points), but the Jets have already been eliminated and the Kings are hanging by a thread.

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