NHL Playoff Picture 2021: Latest Conference Standings, Seeds and Predictions
There's no team in the NHL hotter than the Vegas Golden Knights at the moment. They've won seven games in a row and have ascended to the top of the West Division standings.
When the Stanley Cup playoffs arrive, they are sure to again be among the top contenders to win it all. And perhaps after falling short the past few years, they'll manage to win the first championship in franchise history.
However, the Golden Knights will have to take down some strong competition in order for that to happen.
The end of the 2020-21 regular season is getting nearer, and some close battles for playoff berths are taking place. While Vegas is well on its way to reaching the postseason, other teams will be playing critical games down the stretch to try to secure a spot in the playoffs.
Here's a look at the current NHL standings, along with several predictions for how things will unfold.
1. Washington Capitals (62 points)
2. New York Islanders (60)
3. Pittsburgh Penguins (59)
4. Boston Bruins (56)
5. New York Rangers (52)
6. Philadelphia Flyers (47)
7. New Jersey Devils (34)
8. Buffalo Sabres (31)
1. Toronto Maple Leafs (61)
2. Winnipeg Jets (57)
3. Edmonton Oilers (56)
4. Montreal Canadians (47)
5. Calgary Flames (41)
6. Vancouver Canucks (37)
7. Ottawa Senators (36)
1. Carolina Hurricanes (63)
2. Florida Panthers (63)
3. Tampa Bay Lightning (62)
4. Nashville Predators (51)
5. Dallas Stars (48)
6. Chicago Blackhawks (47)
7. Detroit Red Wings (39)
8. Columbus Blue Jackets (39)
1. Vegas Golden Knights (66)
2. Colorado Avalanche (64)
3. Minnesota Wild (59)
4. Arizona Coyotes (45)
5. St. Louis Blues (44)
6. San Jose Sharks (41)
7. Los Angeles Kings (38)
8. Anaheim Ducks (35)
Predators Will Secure No. 4 Spot in Central
On Monday, the Predators earned a 5-2 win over the Blackhawks to snap a two-game losing streak. That was a big victory for Nashville, not only because it's trying to secure a playoff berth but also because Chicago is one of the teams it's trying to hold off.
The Predators play two more games against the Blackhawks this week, and they also have a matchup against the Stars on May 1. Chicago and Dallas are currently the two teams closest to Nashville (the No. 4 team in the Central Division) in the standings, so those will also be important games for the postseason picture.
The key to the Predators' recent success has been their offense. They've won 12 of their past 16 games and scored at least two goals in each of those victories. In Nashville's four losses during that stretch, the team has scored less than two goals in each game.
As long as the Predators keep scoring, they should be in good shape to hold onto the No. 4 spot in the Central. Expect that to happen, as they should create some separation between them and the Blackhawks and Stars with strong showings over the next two weeks.
Bruins Will Finish Strong in East
The Bruins have reached the playoffs in four consecutive seasons, and that run seems unlikely to end this year. But they're going to have to finish strong to hold off some strong competition in the East Division.
Currently, the Bruins have a four-point lead over the Rangers for the No. 4 spot in the East. However, Boston has played two fewer games than both New York and Philadelphia (which is nine points back of the Bruins), so it's in a good position to extend its postseason streak.
With their victory over the first-place Capitals on Sunday, the Bruins have now won four games in a row and six of their past eight. Now, they play five of their next seven games against the last-place Sabres, so it should be an opportunity for Boston to keep winning and solidify its spot in the top half of the East standings.
At the trade deadline, the Bruins acquired forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar and defenseman Mike Reilly, which should help them play even better down the stretch. Boston should have no trouble finishing strong and holding off the teams in the bottom half of the division.
Blues Will Edge Coyotes for Final Playoff Berth in West
Although the Blues have reached the playoffs eight of the past nine seasons (and won the Stanley Cup in 2019), they are currently outside of a postseason spot in fifth in the West Division standings.
However, they are only one point behind the Coyotes, who have played three more games than St. Louis, so that could quickly change.
If the Blues are going to get back to the playoffs, they'll need to play better than they have for most of the past month. They've lost nine of their past 12 games, and the schedule doesn't get easier. St. Louis' next six games are against Colorado and Minnesota, a pair of teams in the top half of the division.
But this is an experienced Blues team, one that's ready to try to play its way into the postseason.
"It's going to be fun," center Tyler Bozak said, per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "All of us love to play the important games, the meaningful games, the games that matter the most. So we're excited for the challenge and opportunity."
St. Louis should play better down the stretch, and it should edge Arizona for the final playoff berth out of the West in a battle that could come down to the final games of the regular season.