NHL Playoff Picture 2019: Latest Standings and Odds for Stanley CupMarch 29, 2019
With the NHL regular season set to conclude on April 6, seven teams have secured their spots in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The defending champion Washington Capitals became the latest team to clinch a playoff berth Thursday, and they sit atop the Metropolitan Division.
Five of the other nine remaining spots in the playoff field are likely to be locked up soon, but there's still plenty of drama in both wild-card races.
In the Eastern Conference, three teams are separated by one point, while a trio of franchises are four points apart in the battle for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
1. Tampa Bay: 122 points
2. Boston: 103
3. Toronto: 97
1. Washington: 100
2. New York Islanders: 97
3. Pittsburgh: 95
1. Carolina: 91
2. Columbus: 90
3. Montreal: 90
4. Philadelphia: 82
5. Florida: 80
1. Winnipeg: 94
2. Nashville: 92
3. St. Louis: 90
1. Calgary: 101
2. San Jose: 95
3. Vegas: 90
1. Dallas: 88
2. Colorado: 83
3. Arizona: 81
4. Minnesota: 79
5. Chicago: 78
6. Edmonton: 77
7. Vancouver: 76
Stanley Cup Odds
Odds according to Oddschecker.
Tampa Bay +185 (bet $100 to win $185)
San Jose +1,400
St. Louis +2,000
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the clear-cut favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup, but that doesn't mean they are automatically locked into the Stanley Cup Final.
Since this playoff system was brought into effect for the 2013-14 season, only two division winners have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, and both of those teams played each other in 2018.
In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the championship series featured a second-place team against third-place side, while the Nashville Predators made the Stanley Cup Final as a wild-card team in 2017.
Although the Lightning have already secured the Presidents' Trophy, they don't have an easy finish to the regular season, which should keep them fresh for the playoffs.
The Lightning play Washington on Saturday and then embark on a four-game road trip that ends with games against Atlantic Division foes the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.
If there's a team that will knock the Lightning out of the playoffs before the Stanley Cup Final, it's the Bruins, who have the second-most points in the NHL behind Tampa Bay.
The Bruins won't have an easy first-round matchup against the Maple Leafs, but if they get through that series, they will be set for an epic showdown with the Lightning.
Since the Atlantic Division teams have to beat up on each other in the first two rounds, it's worth keeping an eye on Washington or the Pittsburgh Penguins out of the Metropolitan Division.
Both the Capitals and Penguins carry long championship odds, but they both possess title-winning experience and are more than capable of making runs to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Western Conference playoff field is more congested, and going into Friday, four of the top teams are on at least two-game losing streaks.
The Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights have stumbled recently instead of creating momentum for the postseason.
Of the contenders in the West, Nashville and San Jose carry the most experience, while Winnipeg and Vegas emerged on the scene as title hopefuls a year ago.
It's worth noting that three of the five Western Conference representatives in the Stanley Cup Final have come from the Pacific Division since the new format was introduced. The Chicago Blackhawks in 2015 are the only top-three team from the Central Division to have advanced to the championship round in that time.
But that could change in 2019, as the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars are both making late surges, while Winnipeg and Nashville will be considered as title favorites out of the West.
If you're looking for a dark-horse team, St. Louis at +2,000 is one to watch, as the Blues have wins in March over Tampa Bay, Vegas and Pittsburgh.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90. Statistics obtained from NHL.com.