It’s crunch time.
As it stands right now, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs all look like the will make the playoffs for the East.
That leaves the Washington Capitals (3), Ottawa Senators (6), New York Islanders (7), New York Rangers (8), Winnipeg Jets (9), Buffalo Sabres (10) and New Jersey Devils (11) to jockey for the final playoff positions.
In the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks have locked down playoff spots, and the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings are unlikely to miss the postseason.
That leaves the No. 5 to 11 teams to battle it out with only six points separating the San Jose Sharks (5) from the Phoenix Coyotes (11). In between are, in order, the St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Bleacher Report looks at who’s hot and who’s not as the regular season wraps up.
All scores are accurate as of Sunday.
Last week: 30
Record: 13-20-6 (4-6-0)
The Florida Panthers have been spoilers for quite some time now, but they have a legitimate shot to knock the Islanders, Rangers and Devils out of the playoffs by beating them at the end of the month.
They also could have a hand in the Eastern Conference seeding with their games against Boston and Toronto.
Last week: 19
Record: 15-16-10 (1-5-4)
The Devils have lost every game since Martin Brodeur picked up win No. 666.
In all seriousness, New Jersey probably won’t make the playoffs because of its recent losing streak.
Last week: 24
Record: 17-22-2 (2-8-0)
Any chance at making the playoffs, which was decent given that the Carolina Hurricanes play in the league’s worst division, was squandered when the team did not pick up a point in its first seven games of the month.
The 4-2 win over Boston is nice, but it hardly helps this team out at this point.
Last week: 28
Record: 14-22-6 (3-5-2)
The Avs beat Anaheim and Vancouver this month!!
They also lost every other game they’ve played in April…
There are definitely pieces on this club that should be built around, but Colorado needs to look up and down the organization and find out why a team this talented ended up in the Western Conference cellar.
Last week: 20
Record: 15-19-8 (2-6-2)
By losing seven of their last eight contests, the Preds have essentially eliminated themselves from the playoffs.
Last week: 18
Record: 16-18-7 (5-5-0)
After losing five straight, the Edmonton Oilers know they will be playing spoiler down the stretch.
They get, in order: Minnesota, Colorado, Anaheim twice, Chicago, Minnesota and Vancouver.
Last week: 29
Record: 16-21-4 (4-6-0)
The Calgary Flames have beaten Colorado, Phoenix and Edmonton, essentially establishing that they can pick up wins against bad teams.
Calgary has to look at itself in the mirror in the offseason and decide if it wants to stay the course, which hasn’t merited playoff appearances recently, or undergo a complete makeover.
Last week: 27
Record: 17-22-3 (4-4-2)
There was no real playoff push in the last month of the season, and the Tampa Bay Lightning may go down as the most talented team in the league that didn’t make the playoffs.
If only they played a little defense this year…
Last week: 21
Record: 17-21-3 (4-5-1)
Any shot the Philadelphia Flyers had at the playoffs was shattered when they lost four in a row against mediocre teams: the Jets, Islanders, Senators and Sabres.
Last week: 26
Record: 18-19-6 (5-3-2)
The Sabres still have an outside shot at the playoffs and are doing what they can to make it.
Buffalo lost in Winnipeg and to the Canadiens by a combined score of 9-2, but it has also beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh, Ottawa, New Jersey, Philly and Tampa this month.
It’s going to be hard for the Sabres to make the postseason; they have to play the Bruins, Rangers and Penguins down the stretch, but if it can be done if they really make a push.
Last week: 25
Record: 18-16-7 (5-2-3)
Phoenix still has a chance at making the playoffs, but in order to do so it has to pick up wins against San Jose twice at home and St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit and Anaheim on the road.
It’s a daunting task, but if they get in, we all know the Coyotes can make a run in the playoffs.
Last week: 22
Record: 21-19-2 (5-5-0)
It’s going to be hard to catch the Caps, and that’s this team’s ticket to the playoffs, but with a pretty easy schedule throughout April, it can be done.
In order, the Jets will play Tampa Bay, Carolina, the Islanders, Buffalo, Washington and Montreal.
The first four games are all very winnable, and the Jets have to pick up points there if they want to make the postseason this year.
Last week: 23
Record: 19-16-7 (6-3-1)
You can say this about the Jackets: They are doing everything they can to make the playoffs.
And here’s the crazy thing: Columbus can!
It won’t be easy; the Blue Jackets will have to take a game or two from Anaheim, L.A. or San Jose on the road if they want a shot at making the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.
Last week: 17
Record: 21-17-3 (6-4-0)
The Stars are either going to enter the playoffs red-hot or completely rip the heart out of their fans.
Dallas has won five straight, including two over San Jose, one over Anaheim and another over L.A. (5-1!).
The Stars have to take games from Chicago, Vancouver, St. Louis, L.A., Columbus and Detroit—five teams that could make the playoffs—down the stretch if they want to participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2007-08.
Last week: 15
Record: 19-15-7 (4-4-2)
The Red Wings aren’t making things easy this season.
Detroit has lost to St. Louis, San Jose and Chicago—three playoff teams—but also lost to Phoenix, which is tough to swallow.
Luckily, they get Calgary, Phoenix, Nashville and Dallas to finish up the month.
Last week: 13
Record: 21-14-6 (5-5-0)
A recent road trip has put the Senators in a precarious position.
By losing four in a row—including games against three non-playoff teams: Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay—Ottawa is suddenly in jeopardy of losing what looked like a secure spot in the playoffs a month ago.
Last week: 16
Record: 21-16-5 (7-1-2)
Stanley Cup playoffs on the Island?
It’s starting to look more and more likely by the game.
The Islanders only have two losses this month: at red-hot Washington in a shootout and in overtime against the Rangers.
Believe, Islanders fans. Believe!
Last week: 14
Record: 21-16-4 (6-3-1)
Barring a serious collapse, the Rangers look like they are going to squeeze into the playoffs.
They pretty much have a cakewalk down the stretch: Philly, Florida twice, Buffalo, New Jersey twice and Carolina.
They could easily go into the playoffs 7-0-0 and catch a division winner off-guard in the first round.
Last week: 6
Record: 22-16-3 (3-6-1)
By losing six of their seven games this month, the Wild have put themselves in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs.
They absolutely must win contests against Calgary (twice), Edmonton (twice) and Colorado if they want to make the postseason for the first time since 2007-08.
Last week: 12
Record: 23-17-2 (8-1-1)
By winning every game they have played this month, the Capitals have made themselves front-runners to win the Southeast Division and make the playoffs.
Washington can’t hit cruise control, however, as it will play Toronto, Ottawa twice, Montreal, Winnipeg and Boston to finish up the season.
Last week: 11
Record: 21-13-7 (7-2-1)
It looks like San Jose will make the playoffs following that impressive stretch it had in late March and early April, but those two losses to Dallas, as well as a blanking in Columbus, are awfully troubling.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are no sure thing in the Bay, and the Sharks have to take care of business against teams like Phoenix, Columbus and Dallas down the stretch.
Last week: 9
Record: 23-16-2 (6-4-0)
Until they lost to a desperate Blue Jackets team in Columbus, the Blues were on a roll.
The Blues had won six in a row, including five games on the road.
Their efforts will be rewarded, as St. Louis gets six of its last seven games in Missouri and only has to face lowly Colorado away from home.
Last week: 7
Record: 24-14-4 (6-2-2)
That rough start probably cost the Kings a shot at the division title, although the seven-point gap between them and Anaheim can be made up if the Ducks suddenly slump and they get hot.
Los Angeles’ schedule isn’t easy down the stretch, as every team it plays from here on out can make the playoffs: San Jose, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Detroit and San Jose again.
Last week: 10
Record: 23-13-5 (7-1-2)
I’m just going to state the obvious: That 5-1 win over Montreal was huge for the Leafers.
It’s going to take a lot to close the six-point gap the Habs have created, but if Toronto cleans up against New Jersey, Washington, the Islanders, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida and—drum roll please!—Montreal, suddenly it could happen.
Last week: 8
Record: 23-12-6 (7-3-0)
While the Wild are mired in a rut, the Canucks have done everything they can to ensure they lock down the No. 3 seed.
Save for an embarrassing loss in Colorado, this team has played well. It'll have to play St. Louis, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago and Anaheim down the stretch, but it would take a pretty big collapse for this team to relinquish the division this year.
Last week: 5
Record: 26-11-4 (5-4-1)
Although they are still in contention for the division title, the B’s are losing to teams they should beat. Boston lost to the Islanders, a bubble team, and in Carolina against a team that will not make the playoffs.
This has to be troubling for Bruins fans who know their team may draw a tough team in the No. 4-5 matchup if they do not win the division.
Last week: 4
Record: 26-10-5 (6-4-0)
It’s going to be a dogfight between Montreal and Boston to see which team gets the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
The Habs should have an edge by nature of getting to play Philly, Tampa, New Jersey and Winnipeg at the end of the season.
Last week: 3
Record: 27-10-5 (5-4-1)
Anaheim has slipped a little bit this month, losing to Dallas and Colorado by a large margin.
The Ducks have already clinched a playoff spot and are unlikely to cede the division, but as the No. 2 seed, they are likely to face San Jose, St. Louis or Detroit—three teams that have been to the playoffs recently and will be a formidable opponent in the first round.
A strong finish is still important for the Ducks.
Last week: 2
Record: 32-10-0 (8-2-0)
Save for a two-game hiccup when the Pens were outscored 10-2 by the Sabres and Rangers, the Penguins have run all over the Eastern Conference.
At this point, Pittsburgh looks like the team to beat out east.
Last week: 1
Record: 32-5-4 (8-1-1)
There really has been no drop-off for the Blackhawks in the second half.
To be fair, Chicago got to play Nashville three times this month, but it also beat Minnesota, Detroit and split with St. Louis—three teams that should make the playoffs this year.