NHL Playoff Picture 2020: Updated Standings and Bracket Outlook

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 11, 2020

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - MARCH 07: Andrei Svechnikov #37 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the New York Islanders at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on March 07, 2020 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Separation is hard to come by in the NHL wild-card races. 

After Tuesday's games, five teams in the Eastern Conference have three points between them. 

The Western Conference is just as packed with three sides sitting on 78 points, one at 77 and another at 74. 

The majority of the teams involved in the wild-card races should be there until the final day of the regular season because the top teams in each division have at least 83 points. 

When the playoffs begin, the top seed in each conference plays the No. 2 wild-card team, while the other division winner faces the No. 1 wild-card side. 

The second- and third-place squads in each division will open the postseason against each other. 


NHL Standings

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

1. Boston 100 points

2. Tampa Bay 92

3. Toronto 81


Metropolitan Division

1. Washington 90

2. Philadelphia 89

3. Pittsburgh 86


Wild-Card Race

1. Carolina 81

2. Columbus 81

3. New York Islanders 80

4. New York Rangers 78

5. Florida 78

6. Montreal 71


The top four teams in the East wild-card competition reside in the Metropolitan Division.

The Pittsburgh Penguins made life more difficult for those teams to reach third place after they closed a three-point gap on the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday. 

Tuesday's top beneficiary was the Carolina Hurricanes, who beat the Detroit Red Wings to move above the 80-point barrier. 

Duane Burleson/Associated Press

By losing in a shootout to the Vancouver Canucks, the New York Islanders failed to keep ground, and that result also let the New York Rangers inch closer. 

The Hurricanes and Islanders appear to have the inside track on the wild-card berths at the moment since they have played the fewest games of the group. 

Carolina and the Islanders have participated in 68 contests, which is one game fewer than the Rangers and Florida Panthers and two less than the Columbus Blue Jackets have played. 

The top wild-card side could gain separation with a fairly easy schedule over the next week-and-a-half that includes two games with the Buffalo Sabres, a road matchup with the New Jersey Devils and a home clash with the Ottawa Senators. 

Gathering points in those games will be important since the Hurricanes have to face the Islanders, Bruins, Maple Leafs and Penguins on two occasions in a six-game stretch from March 22-31. 

Columbus is at home for three of the next four clashes, but those matchups come against Pittsburgh, the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals. 

The Blue Jackets also have to play six of seven games away from home starting Monday in Boston. They are 13-10-11 on their travels compared to 20-12-4 at Nationwide Arena.

The Islanders are in the middle of a similar swing, as they play five of their next six on the road. Their poor road form could doom them in the wild-card hunt, as they have lost seven straight outside of New York.

The Rangers conclude the week with visits to the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes, and their 19-12-2 road mark could make a difference down the stretch. 

Florida, which has one fewer road win than the Rangers, is in a similar situation, as it plays three of its next four on the road. 

If any team wants to take the lead over the next 10 days, they must find a way to pick up road results. 


Western Conference

Central Division

1. St. Louis 92

2. Colorado 90

3. Dallas 82


Pacific Division

1. Vegas 86

2. Edmonton 83

3. Calgary 79


Wild-Card Race

1. Nashville 78

2. Vancouver 78

3. Winnipeg 78

4. Minnesota 77

5. Arizona 74

6. Chicago 70


The Winnipeg Jets could be the first wild-card contender to reach 80 points Wednesday, but in order to do so, they must beat the Edmonton Oilers on the road. 

The Chicago Blackhawks could also gain ground Wednesday if they take down the San Jose Sharks on home ice. 

Significant movement in the West could occur Thursday when Nashville visits Toronto, the Minnesota Wild host the Vegas Golden Knights and the Vancouver Canucks visit the Arizona Coyotes. 

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Of the six contenders within eight points of each other, Nashville and Winnipeg carry the longest winning streaks at three, but both could end Thursday. 

The Predators, Canucks, Wild and Blackhawks have all played 69 games, while the Jets and Coyotes have participated in 70 contests. 

Vancouver could be the most important figure in the competition over the next week since it plays in Arizona Thursday and then hosts the Jets Sunday. 

Wins in both of those games could create some type of separation that puts pressure on the chasing pack to produce results. 

Nashville's key stretch starts March 19, when it hosts four contests in a five-game span. If the Predators can improve on their 17-14-4 mark at Bridgestone Arena, they could come close to solidifying a playoff position. 

Winnipeg carries the best home record of the four teams beneath the two wild-card positions at 20-14-3, but it is not back home until Tuesday. 

Minnesota may be in the best spot to make a push into the postseason spots since it plays six of its next nine contests at XCel Energy Center. 

Regardless of what occurs in the coming weeks, the margins of error for these teams will be thin, and any set of results could dramatically alter who lands in the playoffs.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from NHL.com.