NHL Playoff Standings 2021: Predicting Which Teams Will Fall Short of Postseason

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 14, 2021

NHL Playoff Standings 2021: Predicting Which Teams Will Fall Short of Postseason

0 of 4

    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    This has been an unorthodox NHL season, one in which the divisions have been realigned and the format for the Stanley Cup playoffs has been changed. There are no Eastern and Western Conferences and instead only four divisions (North, East, Central and West), so the push for the postseason looks a bit different this spring.

    The top four teams from each division will reach the playoffs. It's as simple as that, no wild-card teams. And after the regular season has only featured intradivision play, so will the first two rounds of the postseason.

    Because of this playoff format, it's possible that two teams that are typically in the same conference could meet in the Stanley Cup Final. So, it should be intriguing to see how it all unfolds once the postseason begins in May.

    But first, teams still need to make it into the playoffs. No team has clinched their spot yet, so it's still possible there could be some shakeups in the standings over the next month.

    Here's a look at the current NHL standings, followed by predictions for which teams will end up falling short of the postseason.

NHL Standings

1 of 4

    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    East Division

    1. Washington Capitals (60 points)

    2. New York Islanders (58)

    3. Pittsburgh Penguins (56)

    4. Boston Bruins (50)

    5. New York Rangers (46)

    6. Philadelphia Flyers (44)

    7. New Jersey Devils (34)

    8. Buffalo Sabres (27)


    North Division

    1. Toronto Maple Leafs (60)

    2. Winnipeg Jets (53)

    3. Edmonton Oilers (52)

    4. Montreal Canadians (45)

    5. Calgary Flames (39)

    6. Vancouver Canucks (35)

    7. Ottawa Senators (32)


    Central Division

    1. Carolina Hurricanes (58)

    2. Tampa Bay Lightning (58)

    3. Florida Panthers (58)

    4. Nashville Predators (49)

    5. Chicago Blackhawks (45)

    6. Dallas Stars (42)

    7. Columbus Blue Jackets (39)

    8. Detroit Red Wings (36)


    West Division

    1. Colorado Avalanche (62)

    2. Vegas Golden Knights (58)

    3. Minnesota Wild (51)

    4. St. Louis Blues (44)

    5. Arizona Coyotes (43)

    6. San Jose Sharks (40)

    7. Los Angeles Kings (38)

    8. Anaheim Ducks (33)

Blackhawks Won't Push Way into Playoffs in Central

2 of 4

    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    The Chicago Blackhawks have had some tough stretches this season. They opened the year with seven losses in their first nine games, and they had a period in March in which they lost six of seven. Yet, they could still play their way into the playoffs over the final month.

    Currently in fifth in the Central Division with 45 points, the Blackhawks are only four points back of the No. 4 Predators. Meanwhile, the Hurricanes, Lightning and Panthers each have 58 points atop the standings.

    If Chicago is going to reach the playoffs, though, it will have to fare well against some tough competition. After two games against the Red Wings later this week, the Blackhawks' next nine games will be against the four teams ahead of them in the Central Division standings. And this season, they have a 5-13 record in games against those teams: Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida and Nashville.

    That means things aren't looking great for the Blackhawks, even though they've won three of their past four games. Expect them to cool off during that difficult stretch, which will lead to them missing the playoffs for the third time in four years.

No Shakeups Will Happen in the North or East

3 of 4

    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    In the North and East Divisions, it's pretty clear who the top four teams are in each. And while it's possible that something surprising could happen during the final stretch of the regular season and a team outside of a postseason spot sneaks in, don't count on it.

    Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton are all in strong positions to reach the playoffs out of the North, and it would be a surprising collapse for any of the three to miss the postseason. Montreal is in fourth with 45 points, six more than Calgary, which sits in fifth. However, the Canadiens have played three fewer games than the Flames.

    In the East, the Capitals, Islanders and Penguins are cruising toward the postseason, and the Bruins have a four-point lead over the Rangers for the No. 4 spot. After adding former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall in a deal ahead of the trade deadline, Boston should have no trouble securing a playoff berth, holding off any potential late pushes from the Rangers and/or Flyers.

    Of course, surprises happen all the time in sports, and teams can get hot or cold at any point during a season. But it seems unlikely that anything drastic is going to happen in either of these divisions over the next month.

Coyotes Will Get Edged by Blues for Final Spot out of West

4 of 4

    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    One of the tightest playoff races is in the West Division, in which the Blues hold the No. 4 spot with 44 points. But there are several teams close behind them, as the Coyotes (43), Sharks (40) and Kings (38) are all looking to push their way into the postseason.

    However, this race is likely to come down to St. Louis and Arizona, as San Jose and Los Angeles will likely fade down the stretch. The Blues and Coyotes are both strong teams, and while they will likely have trouble catching any of the top three teams in the division (Avalanche, Golden Knights and Wild), it's possible that either one of them gets the final playoff berth in the West.

    St. Louis and Arizona only have one game against each other remaining, so the final spot will be decided by who fares the best against the rest of the West Division teams down the stretch. The Coyotes are currently on a four-game losing streak, while the Blues have won three in a row, so they could be trending in opposite directions.

    Prior to St. Louis' current win streak, it had lost 12 of its previous 14 games. But this is a talented team, and even though the Blues face some tough competition over the next month, they should continue to play better than they did earlier in the season.

    While it could come down to the final days, the Blues will edge the Coyotes by a few points and earn the final playoff spot out of the West in a battle that comes down to the wire.