NHL Playoff Picture 2022: Updated Standings After Avalanche Clinch Postseason Berth

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 6, 2022

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 05:  Nathan MacKinnon #29 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates his first period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on April 5, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

The best team in the NHL is headed to the playoffs.

The Colorado Avalanche clinched their spot in the postseason with a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. All the Avalanche needed to clinch the playoffs coming into Tuesday's game was a single point, but they earned the full two with the win and improved their league-best record to 50-14-6 for 106 points.

NHL Public Relations @PR_NHL

✖️ – <a href="https://twitter.com/Avalanche?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Avalanche</a> <br> <br>The reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners became the first Western Conference team to clinch a berth in the 2022 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StanleyCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StanleyCup</a> Playoffs! <br> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHLStats?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NHLStats</a> Pack: Team Clinching Notes ➡️ <a href="https://t.co/qYoc82Gvf0">https://t.co/qYoc82Gvf0</a> <a href="https://t.co/m3AdcrhXmK">https://t.co/m3AdcrhXmK</a>

Here is a look at the NHL standings after Colorado became the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a spot in the postseason:

Eastern Conference Atlantic Division

  • Florida Panthers, 102 points (clinched playoffs)
  • Toronto Maple Leafs, 95 points
  • Boston Bruins, 93 points
  • Tampa Bay Lightning, 93 points
  • Buffalo Sabres, 63 points
  • Detroit Redwings, 61 points
  • Ottawa Senators, 58 points
  • Montreal Canadiens, 49 points

Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division

  • Carolina Hurricanes, 98 points
  • New York Rangers, 96 points
  • Pittsburgh Penguins, 92 points
  • Washington Capitals, 84 points
  • New York Islanders, 73 points
  • Columbus Blue Jackets, 72 points
  • Philadelphia Flyers, 55 points
  • New Jersey Devils, 54 points

Western Conference Central Division

  • Colorado Avalanche, 106 points
  • Minnesota Wild, 91 points
  • St. Louis Blues, 88 points
  • Nashville Predators, 82 points
  • Dallas Stars, 81 points
  • Winnipeg Jets, 76 points
  • Chicago Blackhawks, 59 points
  • Arizona Coyotes, 49 points

Western Conference Pacific Division

  • Calgary Flames, 91 points
  • Los Angeles Kings, 86 points
  • Edmonton Oilers, 85 points
  • Vegas Golden Knights, 82 points
  • Vancouver Canucks, 74 points
  • Anaheim Ducks, 68 points
  • San Jose Sharks, 66 points
  • Seattle Kraken, 50 points

Clinching this early is welcome news for the Avalanche considering they are still missing key pieces in Gabriel Landeskog, Samuel Girard and Nazem Kadri because of injuries.

Kadri is of particular concern considering he led the Avalanche in scoring with 83 points at the start of Tuesday's slate. Head coach Jared Bednar recently told reporters the center is expected back for the postseason.

Colorado Avalanche @Avalanche

It’s just what the Dogg does. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoAvsGo?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoAvsGo</a> <a href="https://t.co/9fWoXAWpk1">pic.twitter.com/9fWoXAWpk1</a>

The Avalanche have plenty of time to get healthy with the playoffs scheduled to start May 2, and they are in no danger of losing their status as the top seed in the Western Conference given their significant cushion in the standings.

They also have plenty of remaining star power in Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon to lead the way in the meantime even if the lineup isn't at 100 percent.

Yet that position atop the standings could put Colorado in line for quite the daunting first-round matchup. After all, the Vegas Golden Knights are battling for wild-card positioning and would represent a much more challenging first-round opponent than the top seed often receives.

Colorado Avalanche @Avalanche

The MANIMAL<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoAvsGo?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoAvsGo</a> <a href="https://t.co/zq0nfoRkZy">pic.twitter.com/zq0nfoRkZy</a>

Vegas knocked the Avalanche out in a thrilling six-game series in the second round last season by winning four straight after Colorado won the first two. Two of those six games went into overtime as the franchises battled it out.

The Avalanche look more poised to make a deep run this season, and the Golden Knights have struggled to replicate last season's success. Still, it wouldn't be a first-round warm-up for a team that has been so dominant throughout the campaign.