NHL Playoff Picture 2021: Complete Standings, Bracket and Postseason Race

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IMay 9, 2021

NHL Playoff Picture 2021: Complete Standings, Bracket and Postseason Race

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    On Saturday night, the Nashville Predators became the 15th team in the NHL this season to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1. That means the four teams that will head to the postseason out of the Central Division are set.

    It also means there's only one spot still up for grabs in this year's playoff field. And it will go to either the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames or Vancouver Canucks, who are the three teams battling for the final postseason berth out of the North Division.

    Like the regular season, the first two rounds of the playoffs will feature only intradivisional games. Once the postseason field is down to four teams, then there will be non-division matchups. And because of the tweaked format, there could be a Stanley Cup Final matchup between teams that typically would be in the same conference.

    As the start of the postseason gets closer, here's a look at the NHL playoff picture.

East Division

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    1. Pittsburgh Penguins (77 points, clinched division)

    2. Washington Capitals (75, clinched No. 2 seed)

    3. Boston Bruins (71, clinched playoff berth)

    4. New York Islanders (70, clinched playoff berth)

    The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will each host a first-round playoff series, as it's guaranteed they are the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds out of the East Division, respectively. However, it's still unknown which teams they will be playing to open the postseason.

    While the Boston Bruins have a one-point advantage over the New York Islanders for the No. 3 spot, that could still change. Boston has two regular-season games to play (Monday vs. the Islanders and Tuesday at the Capitals), the first of which is New York's only remaining contest.

    As long as the Bruins beat the Islanders or take them to overtime, they will be the No. 3 seed and face the Caps in the first round. So New York will need to win that game if it wants to avoid facing top-seeded Pittsburgh to begin the playoffs.

North Division

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    Larry MacDougal/Associated Press

    1. Toronto Maple Leafs (76, clinched division)

    2. Edmonton Oilers (68, clinched No. 2 seed)

    3. Winnipeg Jets (59, clinched playoff berth)

    4. Montreal Canadiens (57)

    5. Ottawa Senators (49, eliminated)

    6. Calgary Flames (47)

    7. Vancouver Canucks (43)

    There's only one playoff spot still available in the NHL, and it will go to one of three North Division teams: the Canadiens, Flames or Canucks. Although the Ottawa Senators are ahead of Calgary and Vancouver in the standings, the latter two teams have played fewer games and are still mathematically alive because of it.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs will be the No. 1 seed, and the Edmonton Oilers will be the No. 2 seed. The Winnipeg Jets could still fall to No. 4, but that's unlikely. Winnipeg will secure the No. 3 seed on Monday if it beats Vancouver or if Montreal loses to Edmonton (or if both teams lose in overtime/a shootout).

    While the Flames and Canucks are still in the race, the Canadiens could clinch as soon as Monday. All they have to do is take the Oilers to overtime, as their next point will solidify their post in the playoffs.

Central Division

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    1. Carolina Hurricanes (80, clinched division)

    2. Florida Panthers (77, clinched playoff berth)

    3. Tampa Bay Lightning (75, clinched playoff berth)

    4. Nashville Predators (62, clinched No. 4 seed)

    The Hurricanes and Predators will be facing off in the first round of the playoffs, as both teams are locked into their seedings for the postseason. It will be the first time that Carolina and Nashville have met in a playoff series.

    It also means that the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning will be going head-to-head in the opening round. However, it's not yet known which of the two teams will be the No. 2 seed and have home-ice advantage for the series.

    Florida and Tampa Bay are facing off in the regular-season finale Monday. The only way that the Lightning can pass the Panthers in the standings and move up to No. 2 is if they win that game in regulation. The Panthers will be No. 2 as long as they win or make it to overtime.

West Division

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    1. Vegas Golden Knights (80, clinched playoff berth)

    2. Colorado Avalanche (76, clinched playoff berth)

    3. Minnesota Wild (75, clinched playoff berth)

    4. St. Louis Blues (57, clinched No. 4 seed)

    While all four of these teams will be playing in the postseason, the only known thing about the seeding is that the Blues will be at No. 4 and face whichever team wins the division in the first round. And that will end up being either the Vegas Golden Knights or Colorado Avalanche.

    The Minnesota Wild no longer can win the top seed, but they could still move up to No. 2, as they are only one point behind the Avs, who are trying to chase down the Golden Knights for the top spot. Vegas and Minnesota each has only two regular-season games remaining, while Colorado still has three to play.

    On Monday, the Golden Knights are hosting the Avalanche. If they win, they will clinch the division title. So that will be an important game for Colorado as it tries to stay alive in the battle for the No. 1 seed while also fending off Minnesota to at least stay at No. 2.

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