NHL Playoff Standings 2022: Updated Postseason Picture and Stanley Cup BracketApril 26, 2022
NHL Playoff Standings 2022: Updated Postseason Picture and Stanley Cup Bracket
The 2021-22 NHL regular season is nearly complete. This week is the homestretch, with 29 of the league's 30 teams having only two or three games still to play. And while 13 of the 16 playoff berths have been clinched, there are still important matchups on deck.
The most important contests will feature the teams in the Western Conference wild-card picture. There are five teams mathematically alive in the battle for three postseason spots. The Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars hold playoff spots, but the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks remain in the mix.
In the East, there are seeding battles taking place. But the eight-team field is set, so not a ton is going to change between now and the start of the playoffs Monday.
Here's a look at the NHL postseason picture as the regular season winds down.
No. 1 Florida Panthers (120 points) vs. No. 8 Washington Capitals (100)
No. 2 Carolina Hurricanes (112) vs. No. 7 Boston Bruins (103)
No. 3 Toronto Maple Leafs (111) vs. No. 6 Tampa Bay Lightning (106)
No. 4 New York Rangers (108) vs. No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins (101)
No. 1 Colorado Avalanche (116 points) vs. No. 8 Dallas Stars (93)
No. 2 Calgary Flames (108) vs. No. 7 Nashville Predators (94)
No. 3 Minnesota Wild (109) vs. No. 6 St. Louis Blues (109)
No. 4 Edmonton Oilers (98) vs. No. 5 Los Angeles Kings (96)
Panthers Looking to Secure 1st Presidents' Trophy
This has already been the best regular season in Florida Panthers history. They have won 57 games during the 2021-22 campaign—they had never previously won more than 47 (which happened in 2015-16)—and have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
But there's one more piece of history the Panthers could make before the playoffs begin: winning their first Presidents' Trophy. That goes to the NHL team with the best regular-season record, which is currently Florida at 57-16-6. The only other team in the running is Colorado (55-18-6).
The Panthers lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, which snapped their 13-game winning streak. Still, they have been playing well and are in control in the battle for the Presidents' Trophy. They finish the regular season with three straight road games against the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.
Florida's primary goal is winning the Stanley Cup. It hasn't won a playoff series since its first postseason appearance since 1996, having been eliminated in the first round in each of its past six trips to the playoffs. But this could be the year when the Panthers go deep.
Can Capitals Bump Down Penguins into Wild-Card Spot?
On Monday, the Washington Capitals announced that superstar forward Alexander Ovechkin is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Without him, they are much less likely to make a deep run through the playoffs. But even if he doesn't play for the remainder of the regular season, Washington could still move up to third place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Caps finish the campaign with two games against the New York Islanders and one against the New York Rangers. They are only one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have only two games still to play (against the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets).
Whichever of the teams doesn't end up in third will almost certainly be the No. 8 seed as the second wild card considering Boston is firmly in seventh. And that's an important battle because the final wild-card team will draw a difficult first-round matchup against Florida.
Washington has won seven of its past 10 games, and it has enough offensive talent to potentially overcome the loss of Ovechkin for a few days if needed. So it wouldn't be surprising to see the Caps pass the Penguins.
How Will the West Wild-Card Race Shake Out?
A huge game is on tap for Tuesday, when the Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights face off in Dallas. It is a crucial matchup in helping to sort out the Western Conference wild-card picture, which remains tight in the final week of the regular season.
Dallas is the No. 8 seed, but it has only a three-point lead over Vegas. And both teams have three games to play. So if the Golden Knights are victorious, it could give them the momentum needed to push their way into the postseason.
Vegas knows what it takes to win important games, as it has reached the playoffs in each of its first four seasons as an NHL franchise. But it's running out of time to keep that streak alive, so it needs to finish strong in its remaining matchups against Dallas, the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.
It's still possible that the Los Angeles Kings or Nashville Predators could fall out of the playoff picture or that the Vancouver Canucks could play their way in, but those scenarios aren't as likely.
If Vegas beats Dallas on Tuesday, the consequent battle for a playoff berth between the teams will be fascinating.