NHL Playoff Picture 2022: Panthers Clinch Postseason Berth, Updated Standings

Erin WalshApril 3, 2022

Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (11) and left wing Ryan Lomberg (94) celebrate a victory with goaltender Spencer Knight (30) following the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes

The Florida Panthers are headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a third consecutive season.

x - Florida Panthers @FlaPanthers

THE HUNT CONTINUES.<br><br>YOUR CATS ARE PLAYOFF BOUND!!!! <a href="https://t.co/LNDst1p8MV">pic.twitter.com/LNDst1p8MV</a>

Florida became the first team in the NHL to clinch a spot in the 2022 postseason with a 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday at KeyBank Center. With the win, the Panthers moved to 48-15-6 and extended a commanding lead in the Atlantic Division. 

Here's a look at the Eastern Conference standings:

Atlantic Division

1. Florida Panthers: 48-15-6, 102 points

2. Toronto Maple Leafs: 44-19-5, 93 points

3. Tampa Bay Lightning: 43-18-7, 93 points

Metropolitan Division

1. Carolina Hurricanes: 45-16-8, 98 points

2. New York Rangers: 44-20-5, 93 points

3. Pittsburgh Penguins: 41-19-10, 92 points

Wild Card

1. Boston Bruins: 43-20-5, 91 points

2. Washington Capitals: 37-21-10, 84 points

And here's a look at the Western Conference standings:

Central Division

1. Colorado Avalanche: 49-14-6, 104 points

2. Minnesota Wild: 42-20-5, 89 points

3. St. Louis Blues: 38-20-10, 86 points

Pacific Division

1. Calgary Flames: 40-19-9, 89 points

2. Los Angeles Kings: 38-23-10, 86 points

3. Edmonton Oilers: 39-25-5, 83 points

Wild Card

1. Nashville Predators: 39-25-4, 82 points

2. Dallas Stars: 39-25-3, 81 points

The Panthers have spent most of the 2021-22 campaign atop the Eastern Conference standings thanks to incredible seasons from Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart. 

Huberdeau has posted 97 points (24 goals, 73 assists), Barkov has 72 points (33 goals, 39 assists) and Reinhart has 65 points (24 goals, 41 assists). 

Florida has also received key defensive performances from MacKenzie Weegar, Gustav Forsling and Brandon Montour. In addition, the team's depth has been one of the best in the league, featuring six players who have tallied at least 20 goals and 11 players who have reached the 30-point mark. 

The Panthers have never won a title and are hoping to get back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996. However, they'll face a difficult path, even if they finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. 

Despite sitting third in the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are primed to make a run at their third consecutive title. The Boston Bruins are also shaping up to be one of the best teams in the East, having gone 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. 

Still, the Panthers have a solid chance to win it all. Their younger players have matured after being eliminated in the first round in each of the last two seasons. In addition, Florida added veteran Claude Giroux in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, and his experience should help push the team forward.