The Stanley Cup playoffs start at the end of this month, and never has every game counted more for every single team — especially in a shortened season where every point counts. So, which NHL teams are going to the playoffs this year, and which ones are still scrapping to find their way in? And if the playoffs started today, what would that playoff picture look like?
In the East, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the only team that have already clinched their playoff spot. Currently, they’d be facing the New York Islanders who are in the eighth, and last, spot in the conference. Not far behind Pittsburgh are the Montreal Canadiens, who are currently in second spot and would face the New York Rangers, who sit just above the Islanders, in seventh spot. The Washington Capitals are in third and would face off against the Ottawa Senators as it sits; and Boston and Toronto currently sit in the fourth and fifth spot, respectively.
While the teams that sit at the bottom of this pack in the East are just trying to hang on, there are those that are just as desperately trying to take their spot. Those that are still alive and trying in the Eastern Conference are New Jersey, Winnipeg, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Florida.
In the West there’s also one team that’s clinched their playoff spot, the Chicago Blackhawks, and that’s not so surprising given their start to the year. They’d be facing the Detroit Red Wings, who are currently at the lowest spot in the West. The Anaheim Ducks are currently in second rank, and would face the St. Louis Blues, who are seventh. The Vancouver Canucks are in third and would face the Minnesota Wild; while the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks sit in fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
With so many teams struggling for most of this season in the West, it’s surprising to see some of the teams that are still alive. They include Phoenix, Dallas, Edmonton, Columbus, Nashville, Calgary, and Colorado. After the big moves, also largely made in this conference, on trade deadline day, it will be interesting to see who was helped by it, and who may have given up their season for it.