NHL Playoff Picture 2019: Bracket Predictions and Teams to Watch

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2019

Carey Price and the Canadiens remain inside the playoff structure.
Carey Price and the Canadiens remain inside the playoff structure.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens and Columbus Blue Jackets are headed for a Thursday night showdown that could go a long way toward determining the winner of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Montreal leads Columbus by two points, 90-88, heading into the game. The Habs blasted the Florida Panthers 6-1 Tuesday night at the Bell Center, while the Blue Jackets kept pace with a 4-0 home victory over the New York Islanders. Montreal is 4-0-1 in its past five games.

If the Blue Jackets beat the Habs at home in regulation, they will leapfrog Montreal in the standings. While both teams will have 90 points, Columbus has the edge in ROW (regulation or overtime wins), and that category serves as the tiebreaker in the NHL standings. The Blue Jackets have 41 ROW victories, while the Canadiens have 39.

The Blue Jackets also have a game in hand on their rivals. Columbus has six games remaining, while Montreal has just five, and the Canadiens' schedule is more difficult.

In addition to their game at Columbus, they have road matches with the Winnipeg Jets and the Washington Capitals and home games against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Jackets have road games with the Nashville Predators, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators and a home game with the Boston Bruins.

The Capitals increased their lead in the Metropolitan Division to three points with a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington has 98 points, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Islanders have 95 points.

The loss hurt the Hurricanes (91 points), who are sitting in the No. 1 wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. While they are still in that position, their lead over Montreal and Columbus shrunk to one and three points, respectively.

The Hurricanes have six games remaining, and three are at home against the Caps, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils. The other three are on the road against the Penguins, Maple Leafs and Flyers.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes met in a key Western Conference game Tuesday night, and the Coyotes improved their position with a 1-0 victory in the desert.

The victory gave the Coyotes 81 points, the same as the Colorado Avalanche. Those teams are tied for the No. 2 wild-card spot, but the Avs still have the technical edge. Both teams have 33 ROW victories, but Colorado has six games remaining, while the Yotes have just five.

The loss was crucial for Chicago because the Blackhawks are left with 76 points. It is going to be difficult for them to climb over the Minnesota Wild, Coyotes and Avalanche for the final playoff spot with just six games remaining.


Eastern Conference Playoff Standings

Atlantic Division
Team, Points, ROW, Games Remaining
Tampa Bay-p, 122, 53, 5
Boston-x, 101, 44, 6
Toronto, 96, 45, 6

Washington, 98, 41, 5
Pittsburgh, 95, 40, 5
New York Islanders, 95, 40, 5

Wild Card
Carolina, 91, 40, 6
Montreal, 90, 38, 5
Columbus, 88, 40, 6

p-clinched Presidents' Trophy
x-clinched playoff spot


Western Conference Playoff Standings

Central Division
Team, Points, ROW, Games Remaining
Winnipeg-x, 94, 43, 6
Nashville-x, 92, 39, 5
St. Louis, 90, 40, 6

Pacific Division
Calgary-x, 101, 47, 6
San Jose-x, 95, 43, 6
Vegas, 90, 39, 6

Wild Card
Dallas, 84, 39, 6
Colorado, 81, 33, 6
Arizona, 81, 33, 5
Minnesota, 79, 34, 5
Chicago 76, 31, 6

x-clinched playoff spot



Even though Montreal has a two-point lead over Columbus, the Thursday night matchup may be even more important to the Habs than the Jackets. The Canadiens have a brutal remaining schedule, and they are likely to be underdogs in all of their remaining games.

Since Columbus gets Montreal at home, look for the Blue Jackets to take that last playoff spot. Carolina has enough to take the No. 1 wild-card spot.

As far as the rest of the East is concerned, Tampa Bay (already clinched the Presidents' Trophy), Boston and Toronto have the top three spots in the Atlantic, while Washington, Pittsburgh and the Islanders will have the top three places in the Metropolitan.

Look for the Dallas Stars and Colorado to earn the two wild-card spots in the Western Conference. The Coyotes may be tied with the Avs, but Arizona is having a tough time scoring, as is slumping Minnesota.

Winnipeg, Nashville and the St. Louis Blues will take the top three spots in the Central Division, while the Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights own the top three spots in the Pacific, and that's how the division will finish.