Welcome to another edition of NHL Insights as we look at the Western Conference Playoff and Divisional Races
Welcome to another edition of NHL Insights. There are only two weeks left in the regular season and the Western Conference Wild Card Playoff race is heating up with five teams for three spots. The Vegas Golden Knights are on the outside looking in as they not only chase the Dallas Stars but the Los Angeles Kings. The Stars and Nashville Predators control their own destinies. Then there are the Kings who have the easiest schedule to end the season. And what about those Vancouver Canucks who are hanging on but by a thread.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the eight playoff teams are set, but the division races are not settled. Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers are battling for the top spot in the Metro. Over in the Atlantic, the Florida Panthers look to win the division, but the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning are battling for home ice. With the Boston Bruins right there as well. What a fun last two weeks in the regular season.
Time to dive into some NHL Insights for the past week.
NHL Insights: Western Wild Card Race and Divisional Races
Western Conference Wild Card Race
In an article last week for Full Press Hockey, we looked at the Western Conference Wild Card race and who would get the final two spots. Things got a little interesting since then. The Winnipeg Jets were one of the teams in contention, and while they are still mathematically eliminated the gap between the Jets and Stars is now 10 points. Not only that, but the Jets have to jump the Canucks and Golden Knights just to get a chance at the Stars. It does not look good for Winnipeg with six games to play.
Now on to the teams fighting for the playoffs in the Western Conference. As it stands right now, the Predators and Stars each have 91 points, with Nashville holding the first wild card spot over Dallas. The reason being is Nashville has more regulation wins than Dallas. Each team is in the driver’s seat as they control their own destiny with a game in hand over Vegas. Dallas has a tough schedule down the stretch as they play Vegas and Vancouver one more time. Those games could go a long way in determining who gets into the playoffs. Dallas also has games against weaker opponents that they must win to keep their lead in the standings, which is four points over Vegas.
It seems like Nashville will get in at this point. The question will be who they face in the first round, but their schedule is difficult as well. But having that game in hand will prove to be handy. All eyes really are on the Kings, Golden Knights, and Canucks. The Kings are three points up on Vegas for third in the Pacific. And as previously mentioned they have the easiest schedule with every team they play not making the playoffs.
Vegas has a tough schedule with games against Washington, Dallas and St. Louis. The Golden Knights did themselves no favours losing to Edmonton on Saturday afternoon. Points matter to the Golden Knights right now. They are going to need help in front of them with the charging Canucks only three points back of the Golden Knights.
And it will be no easy task for Vancouver to make the playoffs with seven games left either. Their schedule is tough with games against Dallas, Calgary, Los Angeles, and Edmonton. That is a murders row of teams. The Senators are no easy task either. Time is running out for the Canucks, but right now they are still alive. The Western Conference has been the one to watch over these last couple of weeks.
NHL Divisional Races
Nothing is really sewed up in these divisional races just yet outside of the Colorado Avalanche having the top seed in the Western Conference. Though the Florida Panthers hold an eight-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division, it pretty much means the Panthers will win the division. But stranger things have happened. Toronto and Tampa Bay are duking it out over who will get second and third place and the right to home ice in the first round. The Maple Leafs hold a four-point lead over the Lightning as it stands right now. With the Bruins trailing Tampa Bay by three points for third in the Atlantic.
Over in the Metro, things are getting really interesting. The Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers are tied with 104 points, but the Hurricanes hold the top spot because of regulation wins. The Rangers are in the driver’s seat though because Carolina is not playing well and may have lost Frederik Andersen and Jordan Staal for a while due to injuries. Who would have thought the Rangers would be competing for the top spot in the Metro at the beginning of the season? The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are only separated by three points, and there is a chance the Penguins could slip. You could say you have more faith in Washington to pull a first-round upset than Pittsburgh, but neither team scares the top contenders in the East.
The Calgary Flames have a comfortable seven-point lead over the Edmonton Oilers after just clinching a playoff spot. They can wrap up the division with another win or two.
Keep it locked on Full Press Hockey for the latest up to standings when it comes to the Atlantic and Metro Divisions along with the Western Conference Wild Card race.
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