NHL Playoff Race: Who Will Be on the Outside Looking in When NHL Playoffs Begin?
The NHL playoff race is drawing to a hot finish, and many teams who looked like locks a couple of weeks ago are now fighting for their postseason lives.
To sum things up, seven of the 16 playoff berths have been clinched, including five of eight in the Eastern Conference. With most of the teams having just four or five games remaining on their regular season schedule, a lot could boil down to the final weekend once again.
Last year, the Philadelphia Flyers edged the New York Rangers in a shootout to clinch the eighth and final spot. They ended up advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals, proving that all you have to do is get in, and then anything can happen.
Well, the Flyers do not have to worry about getting in at the last minute, because they have clinched a spot and currently possess the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Washington Capitals are just one point behind them, although the Flyers have one more win and one extra game remaining.
The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins have all clinched a spot in the conference as well.
That realistically leaves five teams fighting for the final three spots. The Montreal Canadiens have 89 points and four games left as they currently hold on to the No. 6 position. The Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers have 87 points each and are holding down the final two spots. The Sabres have a game in hand with the Rangers.
But then you still have Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs in contention, and with the Rangers going the wrong way as of late, anything can happen with less than two weeks remaining.
The Western Conference is even tighter, although they basically have the same number of teams still in contention.
So far, only two teams have clinched: the Vancouver Canucks (who have already clinched the President's Trophy) and the San Jose Sharks. The Detroit Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks all look pretty good, while the Chicago Black Hawks are trying to hold off the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames for the final spot.
With very little time left, a lot can still change.
For more on the NHL playoff race, make sure to check out Bleacher Report Featured Columnist April Weiner, who previews the NHL Power Rankings: How the Philadelphia Flyers and Each Team Can Win the Cup.
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