Since being hired in Montreal, Claude Julien has brought stability to the Canadiens.Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
March 28, 2017
The red-hot playoff race in the Eastern Conference took several turns in the last week, and it is quite likely to come down to the last day of the season (April 9) before all the playoff spots are determined.
The Western Conference playoff participants seem certain, although the positioning is anything but sure for the eight teams who will be playing postseason hockey.
In the Atlantic Division, Claude Julien and his Montreal Canadiens (93 points) continue to play solid hockey and have a three-point lead in the division over the second-placed Ottawa Senators (90 points).
The Senators have a five-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs in third place, but head coach Mike Babcock’s team is anything but secure at this point. The Leafs have a one-point lead over the Boston Bruins, who ended a four-game losing streak Saturday night with a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders.
|NHL Playoff Predictions|
|Eastern||Washington Capitals||In||First in Metropolitan|
|Eastern||Columbus Blue Jackets||In||Second in Metropolitan|
|Eastern||Pittsburgh Penguins||In||Third in Metropolitatn|
|Eastern||Montreal Canadiens||In||First in Atlantic|
|Eastern||Ottawa Senators||In||Second in Atlantic|
|Eastern||Toronto Maple Leafs||In||Third in Atlantic|
|Eastern||New York Rangers||In||No. 1 Wild Card|
|Eastern||Tampa Bay Lightning||In||No. 2 Wild Card|
|Eastern||New York Islanders||Out||—|
|Western||Chicago Blackhawks||In||First in Central|
|Western||Minnesota Wild||In||Second in Central|
|Western||St. Louis Blues||In||Third in Central|
|Western||Anaheim Ducks||In||First in Pacific|
|Western||Edmonton Oilers||In||Second in Pacific|
|Western||San Jose Sharks||In||Third in Pacific|
|Western||Calgary Flames||In||No. 1 Wild Card|
|Western||Nashville Predators||In||No. 2 Wild Card|
|Western||Los Angeles Kings||Out||—|
|NHL.com; Silverman predictions|
The Bruins are holding the No. 2 Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, but their lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning is just one point. The Islanders have lost back-to-back games, and they are two points behind the Bruins.
Tampa Bay registered a 5-4 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Monday night. The Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to earn the victory and have won seven of their last 10 games.
The Carolina Hurricanes (80 points), Philadelphia Flyers (78 points) and Florida Panthers (77 points) are still in the playoff race, but those teams are all likely outsiders.
Tuukka Rask’s struggles in net have left the Bruins in a vulnerable position.Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
While the Bruins have struggled recently, they will be in a good position if they can either tie for third place in the Atlantic Division or the final Wild Card spot. That’s because they have more regulation and overtime wins (ROW) than Toronto, Tampa Bay or the Islanders, and that’s the first tiebreaker at the conclusion of the season.
Boston also has six home games remaining and just one more to play on the road.
The top three teams in the Metropolitan Division are the Washington Capitals (106 points), Columbus Blue Jackets (103 points) and Pittsburgh Penguins (103 points). All three have clinched their playoff spots, but they are battling for postseason positioning.
The New York Rangers (96) appear to be locked into the No. 1 Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They don’t appear to have enough time to catch any of the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division, and none of the other Wild Card contenders are close to the Blueshirts.
#mnwild notes: Bruce Boudreau battling fatigue factor; Haula practices at D; Staal vs. Staal friendly rivalry https://t.co/ChJnmBgzRu
The Western Conference features the Chicago Blackhawks (103 points) leading the Central Division, with the slumping Minnesota Wild (95 points) in second. After playing brilliant hockey for the first two-thirds of the season, the Wild have gone 2-7-1 in the last 10 games.
The Nashville Predators (89 points) and St. Louis Blues (88 points) are in a battle for third place, and both teams are almost certain to make the playoffs.
The Anaheim Ducks (93 points) are in first place in the Pacific Division, but the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks are right on their heels as both teams have 91 points. The Ducks and Sharks are going in opposite directions, as Anaheim is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games, while San Jose is 3-7-0 in its last 10 and has lost six games in a row.
The Calgary Flames (88 points) are in fourth place in the Pacific Division, but they should have no problem making the playoffs.
The Los Angeles Kings are their nearest competitor trying to chase them down, but Darryl Sutter’s team has 77 points and is just 4-5-1 in its last 10 games.