NHL Playoff Standings 2022: Latest Picture, Projected Bracket and Races to Watch

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 19, 2022

NHL Playoff Standings 2022: Latest Picture, Projected Bracket and Races to Watch

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    Joe Buglewicz/Associated Press

    The Vegas Golden Knights are in danger of missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in their five-year existence. 

    Vegas enters Tuesday four points back of the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators in the Western Conference wild-card race. The Golden Knights are also three points adrift of the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific Division.

    The gap between Vegas and the teams in front of it could have been smaller if it beat the New Jersey Devils on Monday night. Instead, Vegas went home questioning what went wrong, and it allowed the Vancouver Canucks to sneak back into the discussion in both playoff races.

    Vancouver defeated the Stars to inch to within a point of the Golden Knights with a handful of games left in the regular season. Vegas and Vancouver are in pursuit of two different playoff avenues, and both of those races should come down to the final few days of the regular season.

    The eight Eastern Conference playoff spots have been sealed, but the order is still up for grabs.

    The Florida Panthers will be the No. 1 overall seed, but the second-best team in the conference has yet to be decided since the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers are separated by two points atop the Metropolitan Division.

Updated NHL Playoff Bracket

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Eastern Conference

    Atlantic Division

    No. 1 Florida vs. Wild-Card No. 2 Washington

    No. 2 Toronto vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay


    Metropolitan Division

    No. 1 Carolina vs. Wild-Card No. 1 Boston

    No. 2 New York Rangers vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh


    Western Conference

    Central Division

    No. 1 Colorado vs. Wild-Card No. 2 Dallas

    No. 2 St. Louis vs. No. 3 Minnesota


    Pacific Division

    No. 1 Calgary vs. Wild-Card No. 1 Nashville

    No. 2 Edmonton vs. No. 3 Los Angeles 

3rd Place in Pacific Division

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Kings are one of two teams in the top three of an NHL division without a clinched playoff berth.

    The Kings are in more danger than the Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division since they are four points behind the team from Alberta. Los Angeles has to fight off challenges from the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks in the next week-and-a-half to land a postseason berth.

    Third place in the Pacific Division is so valuable because the Kings have one less point than the top two wild-card teams.

    Vegas failed to gain ground on the Kings on Monday, falling 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils. Vancouver picked up points with its win over Dallas.

    Vancouver may be viewed as the more dangerous team to the Kings' playoff hopes since the Canucks still have a game in hand. They are back on the ice Tuesday night at home against the Ottawa Senators in a game they should win easily.

    After that, Vancouver hits the road to take on the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames. It ends the regular season against the Seattle Kraken, Los Angeles and Edmonton.

    The April 28 clash between the Canucks and Kings could decide the third spot in the Pacific Division if enough ground is made up.

    The Kings could put away the No. 3 spot in the Pacific before then if they beat lesser opposition in the coming games. Los Angeles plays the Anaheim Ducks twice and hosts the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. It plays Seattle one day before its trip to Vancouver. Four wins from those games would put them in a great position to secure a playoff spot.

    Vegas is not out of the playoff race, but it needs to pick up points against the Washington Capitals at home on Wednesday after its unexpected loss to New Jersey.

Western Conference Wild-Card Race

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Nashville and Dallas control their own fates in the Western Conference wild-card race.

    The Predators and Stars are level on 91 points going into Tuesday's games, with the latter holding a tiebreaker advantage for the first wild-card spot.

    Vegas and Vancouver need Nashville and Dallas to slip up a few times down the stretch to claim a wild-card spot instead of the third position in the Pacific Division.

    Vancouver made the wild-card race tighter Monday with its win over the Stars, but it is still five points back of the playoff positions.

    The two wild-card teams have an edge on Vegas since they have played one less game than the Golden Knights.

    The door could be open for the wild-card chasers if Nashville and Dallas lose to playoff opposition over the next few days. The Preds need to defend home ice Tuesday against the Calgary Flames, while the Stars must beat the Edmonton Oilers on the road Wednesday.

    If Calgary and Edmonton win those games, Vegas and Vancouver will move firmly into the wild-card discussion even more.

    The only thing determined about the wild-card race is the first-round opponents of the two squads.

    The top wild-card team will face the Flames, while the No. 2 wild-card squad will take on the Colorado Avalanche, who have the most points in the West.

Metropolitan Division Champion

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    Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

    The Metropolitan Division is the only title still up for grabs.

    Carolina and the New York Rangers are separated by two points. New York has one game in hand on the Canes.

    The other three divisions in the NHL have at least eight points between first and second place.

    The Metropolitan Division title comes with a matchup against the top wild-card team. Florida has 114 points on top of the Atlantic Division and, barring a late collapse, will face the No. 2 wild-card team.

    Boston, Pittsburgh and Washington are the three possible opponents. Pittsburgh is third in the Metropolitan with 97 points. Boston leads the wild-card race with 97 points. Washington is one point behind both teams with 96 points.

    Both the Hurricanes and Rangers take on the Winnipeg Jets next. The Rangers face the Jets on Tuesday, and Carolina gets them on Thursday.

    The Rangers visit the New York Islanders and Boston before they host Carolina on Tuesday. The Canes visit the Devils and Islanders after hosting the Jets.

    A Carolina win at Madison Square Garden should give it the divisional crown. The Canes complete the regular season versus New Jersey on April 28.

    The Rangers have two games after Tuesday's clash at home against Montreal and Washington. If they beat Carolina, they should be able to claim the Metropolitan title with their games in hand.