Here is how I see the playoff picture in the Eastern and Western Conferences right now:
The bubble teams in the east are the Winnipeg Jets (9th seed), New York Rangers (8), Ottawa Senators (7) and New York Islanders (6). The New Jersey Devils started hot, but a tough April has cost them a shot. On the other hand, the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers have won recently, but it’s too little too late.
I don’t see Winnipeg making it into the playoffs. Look at the point differential out East: All of the playoff teams have scored more goals than they have let in, where all the teams on the outside are in the red. The Jets currently sit at minus-13. Not only that, but they essentially have to beat the Caps in D.C. and Montreal at home to make the postseason.
That’s not going to happen.
In the west, San Jose looks like its going to make it in (the Sharks have the same amount of points as the Kings, a team that’s in for sure), which makes St. Louis (6), Minnesota (7), Columbus (8), Detroit (9), Dallas (10) and Phoenix (11) the bubble teams.
The Blues have played well recently and despite a loss to the Avalanche, have convinced me that they will make it.
On the other hand, the Wild has not won in St. Paul this month and went from possibly winning the division to risking missing the postseason altogether. With all the talent on the team, however, and strong leadership from Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Minnesota will pull it together and hold on to the No. 7 seed.
That last spot is tough. I don’t think Phoenix has enough offense, and Dallas has a history of petering out at the end of the year.
That leaves Columbus and Detroit. Here’s what I’ll tell you: When it comes to playoffs and the Red Wings, never bet against Motown. Detroit is your No. 8 seed out west.
All scores and record include Sunday's results.
Last week: 30
Record: 13-26-6 (3-7-0)
It’s going to finish how it started in South Florida: losses, losses and more losses.
The Panthers are far and away the worst team in the NHL this year.
Last week: 26
Record: 15-21-9 (1-7-2)
It’s a complete disaster in Nashville.
Entering April with playoff aspirations, the Predators have only one win against lowly Colorado and have lost their last eight games.
Here’s the real question: Does this poor finish cost Barry Trotz his job?
Last week: 23
Record: 17-24-4 (2-6-2)
Not really sure what happened to this team in 2012-13…
The Bolts have only two wins in April: at Carolina (a team with similar troubles) and over Ottawa. The win over the Senators might tell us more about Ottawa than it does Tampa as it is rather surprising to see a team with playoff aspirations lose in regulation to a bottom feeder at this point in the season.
Last week: 28
Record: 18-24-3 (2-7-1)
It’s been a brutal April for Hurricanes fans.
Carolina only has two wins this month: against Boston and at Tampa Bay.
Is it a matter of just having a full training camp and exhibition games next year or does this team need to make a dramatic change in the offseason?
Last week: 25
Record: 17-20-7 (3-7-0)
Edmonton is kinda on cruise control. They have three wins this month: over rival Calgary twice and once in Colorado.
My guess is that the Oil get swept by the Ducks, Blackhawks, Wild and Canucks to finish off the season.
Last week: 27
Record: 15-23-7 (3-4-3)
Colorado is the ultimate spoiler right now.
Beating Nashville, Calgary and Edmonton? Phh…that’s no fun.
Picking up wins in Anaheim and against Vancouver and St. Louis? Now that will cause a stir!
Last week: 29
Record: 17-18-10 (2-7-1)
The Devils finally won a couple games…against Philadelphia and Florida.
New Jersey’s recent 10-game losing streak indicates this team doesn’t belong in the playoffs even though they started the season out so well.
Last week: 24
Record: 19-22-4 (6-4-0)
Calgary is playing as though they think they can make the postseason. They have three straight wins against playoff teams: Detroit, Anaheim and at Minnesota.
In reality, they are just playing a really effective spoiler right now.
Last week: 21
Record: 19-20-6 (6-4-0)
The Sabres are putting forth a valiant effort down the stretch. They have won six of their last 10 games, including wins over mighty Pittsburgh and Boston on the road.
To win out, they will have to play the Jets, at Pens and against the Islanders. It’s possible for this team to win all three, but I’m not sure it’s enough to put them in the playoffs.
Last week: 22
Record: 20-22-3 (5-5-0)
Let it be known: The Broad Street Bullies are not going down without a fight!
They beat the Habs 7-3 in Montreal and the Rangers 4-2 at home.
Philadelphia also lost to the Devils at home…but, hey, even the meanest of bullies take a day off now and then.
Last week: 20
Record: 19-17-8 (5-2-3)
The Coyotes continue to win enough to stay in the playoff bubble.
They have a couple impressive wins this month over L.A. and Chicago but have also been blanked by Vancouver and San Jose and lost to Calgary.
Of the fringe teams, Phoenix has the highest hill to climb, but they still have a chance to qualify for the postseason.
Last week: 16
Record: 20-16-8 (3-4-3)
Wow, the Red Wings are putting that 21 straight playoff appearance streak, the longest in professional sports, in jeopardy with their recent play.
As it stands, Detroit has only three wins this month: vs. Colorado, at Colorado and at Nashville.
Those are basically the two worst teams in the Western Conference…
Last week: 17
Record: 22-19-3 (6-4-0)
Dallas went on a tear, beating Anaheim, L.A. and San Jose (twice) on a five-game winning streak but then got rocked by Chicago and has recently lost to St. Louis and L.A. on the road.
The Stars have to sweep San Jose, Columbus and Detroit, three potential postseason teams if they want any chance to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.
Last week: 18
Record: 23-19-3 (5-4-1)
Winnipeg remains the lone Eastern Conference bubble team because of their recent five-game win streak.
They are only three points away from the Caps for the division lead and are a Rangers or Senators collapse away from the No. 8 seed.
There’s still hope in the ‘Peg. What a story that would be: The team in the wrong division and, really, conference with a lot of young guys making the postseason in their second year since leaving Atlanta.
Here’s the crazy thing: If they get the No. 7 seed somehow, they might be able to sneak past a middling Bruins or Habs club.
Last week: 18
Record: 22-17-7 (7-3-0)
Columbus in and Detroit out?
If I would have told you that at the beginning of the season, you would have laughed, but the Blue Jackets are making that look more and more like a reality every day.
Winning in Dallas is going to be tough. The Stars are playing well, but the Jackets get a nice juicy matchup against reeling Nashville to end the season.
Crazier things have happened, I guess.
Last week: 15
Record: 23-15-6 (4-6-0)
The Senators are loving it at home.
After losing to Boston, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay on the road, this team has come home and beaten Carolina and Washington before losing 4-1 to Toronto.
The concern here, however, is that this team has to play in Washington and Boston for two of their last four games.
Last week: 12
Record: 24-18-3 (3-6-1)
The Wild are 0-4-1 at home in April…in the middle of a playoff push.
That’s no way to finish up the year.
Minnesota has only beaten Columbus, Calgary and Edmonton this month and lost their last two games against the Sharks and Flames by a combined score of 10-2.
Last week: 13
Record: 24-17-4 (7-2-1)
The Rangers have to love their cupcake schedule at the end of the year. In order to make the playoffs, they get to beat up on Florida, Buffalo, New Jersey and Carolina.
So far, so good: New York picked up wins over the Cats, Sabres and Devils in its last three games.
Last week: 14
Record: 24-16-5 (8-0-2)
The Islanders have made a statement by winning eight of its past 10 games. They want to make the playoffs. Now!
New York’s only losses in April have come in a shootout against Washington, one of the hottest teams in the league, and the super talented Rangers in overtime.
I’m sure this club would love to get the No. 7 seed and take a jab at one of those middling Northeast Division teams in the first round.
Last week: 11
Record: 25-18-2 (9-1-0)
I’ll tell you this: Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to play the Capitals in the first round.
This team has one loss in Ottawa this month, and Alex Ovechkin is looking like Alex Ovechkin again.
Remember how I joked that the lower seeds would be fighting for the No. 6 spot to get a juicy matchup against a weak Southeast Division opponent? Yeah, I take that back.
Last week: 7
Record: 25-15-5 (6-3-1)
I don’t want to take away from anything the Leafs have done this year, especially given that they will make the playoffs for the first time since the 2005 lockout, but those losses in Washington and against the Islanders are a little alarming.
Those defeats were not only by a large margin (5-1 and 5-3, respectively), but they also were against teams that they may play in the postseason. If Toronto drops to No. 6, they’ll probably play the Caps, and if they win in the first round, they might get a red-hot Islanders team in Round 2.
Last week: 9
Record: 26-17-2 (7-3-0)
Barring a collapse, the Blues are likely going be the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.
There are only six teams with a positive point differential in the West and at plus-7 St. Louis has the lowest difference, so all signs point to the Blues facing Vancouver in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Last week: 10
Record: 24-14-7 (6-3-1)
The Sharks aren’t mathematically in just yet, but it would take a major collapse for this team to miss the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
San Jose travels to play L.A. for the final game of the season and should all goes as planned, that game will be a preview of the team’s first-round matchup.
Last week: 8
Record: 25-14-5 (6-2-2)
Stanley Cup hangover at the beginning of the year? L.A. can handle that!
After a slow start, your defending champs have qualified for the playoffs and are possibly slated to face the NorCal rival Sharks in the first round.
Last week: 6
Record: 25-13-7 (6-3-1)
The Canucks will make the playoffs the year and have just about wrapped up the division, but losses to San Jose, St. Louis and Dallas are concerning.
At No. 3, Vancouver could easily play the Sharks or Blues in the first round, and if the Nucks somehow pass the Ducks for the No. 2 spot, they could play the Stars.
Finishing up strong against Chicago and Anaheim is huge for this Vancouver squad knowing that the route to the Stanley Cup will likely go through the Hawks and Ducks.
Last week: 4
Record: 27-13-5 (4-6-0)
Montreal has only one win in four of their last five games with that lone victory coming against Tampa Bay.
To add insult to injury, if the Habs don’t win their division, they’ll probably face a hot, hungry Toronto club in the first round.
And losing that series is a big no-no for this franchise.
Last week: 5
Record: 27-12-5 (5-4-1)
Boston currently has the No. 2 seed as the leader of the Northeast Division, but neither the Habs nor the Bruins are playing their best hockey right now.
The Bruins have lost to the Islanders, Hurricanes and Sabres recently. In fact, their only win came when they
took candy from a baby beat the hapless Panthers at home.
Their contest against the red-hot Capitals in D.C. is going to be tough, but Boston should otherwise take care of business in their remaining games: at Philly, vs. Tampa and vs. Ottawa.
Last week: 3
Record: 28-11-6 (5-4-1)
Anaheim isn’t necessarily finishing the year up strong.
The Ducks have recently gone on a four-game losing streak that included losses to Colorado, Columbus and Calgary…three teams that might not make the playoffs.
While they will probably hold on to the No. 2 seed, I wouldn’t be so sure that they win their first-round matchup. They could easily draw St. Louis or Detroit, two teams that have been to the postseason recently, or a very talented Minnesota club.
Last week: 2
Record: 34-10-0 (8-2-0)
Aside from a little hiccup at the beginning of the month when the Pens lost to the Sabres and Rangers by a combined score of 10-2, Pittsburgh has given hockey fans every reason to believe that they are the best team in the East.
During their recent six-game win streak, the Penguins have beaten the Rangers, Habs and Bruins—three teams that should qualify for the playoffs.
Last week: 1
Record: 34-5-5 (8-0-2)
The Blackhawks have not cooled off at all.
You have to go back to a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on March 29 to find the last time this club lost in regulation.
Their two losses in April came in a shootout to St. Louis, a playoff team, and Phoenix, a scrappy bubble team.