The New York Islanders have made a nice surge in the Eastern Conference, but John Tavares and Co. will fall short of making the playoffs this year.
The Los Angeles Kings may have won two of the last five Stanley Cups, but they won't make the playoffs this time around.
Those teams will get their hearts broken in the final week of the season, and they won't be the only teams left with playoff envy.
The NHL standings tell the story, and eight teams from each conference will end up playing postseason hockey.
There are six teams in the Eastern Conference that should feel confident they will be competing in the Stanley Cup playoffs this season.
The Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers all look secure from the Metropolitan Division, while the Montreal Canadiens and the red-hot Ottawa Senators (six straight wins) appear fairly secure from the Atlantic Division.
The Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Islanders are in a battle for the two remaining spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins are in third place in the Atlantic, and they have been playing much more effectively under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy than they did under longtime boss Claude Julien.
Cassidy has given the Bruins blueliners more freedom to attack offensively than they had under their previous coach, but they have not abandoned their defensive strength.
The Bruins will play eight of their last 10 games at home, so if they can survive their current swing through the Western Conference, they should be in decent shape. Boston picked up a 6-3 win at Vancouver Monday night as Brad Marchand (35 goals) scored a hat trick and moved into a tie for the NHL's goal-scoring lead with Sidney Crosby.
If the Bruins hang on, look for the Leafs and Lightning to fight for the final spot in the East. Toronto has made great strides with young stars Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, William Nylander and Connor Brown; head coach Mike Babcock has this team on the right track.
The Lightning have been surging, and they could get even stronger if superstar Steven Stamkos can return from his knee injury—it may be the final piece of the puzzle for this talented team. Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn give this team the ability to dominate at any time.
Still, the Lightning are not in the playoff picture now and their inconsistency through the first two-thirds of the season is the reason for that.
The Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks are all secure in their playoff aspirations.
The Wild and the Blackhawks should battle for the Central Division title and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and the Sharks have been the best team in the Pacific Division.
Nashville is attempting to hold off depleted St. Louis for third place in the Central Division—the Blues traded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk just prior to the trade deadline—and head coach Peter Laviolette's Predators may be able to do just that.
The Anaheim Ducks and streaking Calgary Flames (10 wins in a row) are in second and third place, respectively, in the Pacific Division. Both teams are in good shape now, but they must keep producing to secure their playoff positions.
The Edmonton Oilers are in position to catch both teams, but if they can't get to one of the top three spots in the Pacific Division, they should have an excellent chance at one of the two wild-card spots.
The Kings have a chance to make the playoffs, but they still have to catch the Blues for that second wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
After dropping a 3-1 decision at home to St. Louis, the Kings trail the Blues by five points for that spot.
After the regular season closes April 9, here are the teams that will be playing postseason hockey:
|NHL Playoff Predictions|
|Conference||Team||Playoffs: In or Out||Playoff Position|
|Eastern||Washington Capitals||In||First in Metropolitan|
|Eastern||Pittsburgh Penguins||In||Second in Metropolitan|
|Eastern||Columbus Blue Jackets||In||Third in Metropolitan|
|Eastern||Ottawa Senators||In||First in Atlantic|
|Eastern||Montreal Canadiens||In||Second in Atlantic|
|Eastern||Boston Bruins||In||Third in Atlantic|
|Eastern||New York Rangers||In||No. 1 Wild Card|
|Eastern||Toronto Maple Leafs||In||No. 2 Wild Card|
|Eastern||Tampa Bay Lightning||Out||--|
|Eastern||New York Islanders||Out||--|
|Western||Chicago Blackhawks||In||First in Central|
|Western||Minnesota Wild||In||Second in Central|
|Western||Nashville Predators||In||Third in Central|
|Western||San Jose Sharks||In||First in Pacific|
|Western||Anaheim Ducks||In||Second in Pacific|
|Western||Calgary Flames||In||Third in Pacific|
|Western||Edmonton Oilers||In||No. 1 Wild Card|
|Western||St. Louis Blues||In||No. 2 Wild Card|
|Western||Los Angeles Kings||Out||--|
The Maple Leafs will edge the Lightning and the Islanders, while the Oilers will return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season, and the Blues will outlast the Kings for the final spot in the Western Conference.