The NHL Playoff Picture is coming into focus as we approach the last two weeks of the regular season. At this point, all we know is that the Eastern Conference is pretty much set outside of the final wildcard spot. And that is, realistically, a three-team race at this point. There are two teams, Philadelphia and Florida, fighting to stay in the hunt but they are seemingly too far out to make up such a large gap.
Out West, four teams are in the wildcard hunt with a good chance to get in. You could put two long shots in the picture in Vancouver and Edmonton but that’s exactly what they are, longshots.
Let’s get a better look at all of the madness and see where things stand to this point.
In the East, there are three teams battling for the final wildcard spot, including two long shots to make it.
Current Wildcard Standings
- Hurricanes 91 Points; seven games remaining
- Canadiens 88 Points; six games remaining
- Blue Jackets 86 Points; seven games remaining
- Flyers 80 Points; six games remaining
- Panthers 78 Points; seven games remaining
Carolina has the biggest advantage heading into the final two weeks of the season as they hold the top wildcard spot and a three-point lead over the Canadiens. In addition, they have a game in hand over the Canadiens, giving them an added cushion in the standings.
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Columbus, on the other hand, has an opportunity to leapfrog the Canadiens in the standings when they meet later this but their remaining seven games will be a tough test. The top wildcard card spot seems like a tall order, however, the final spot is within their reach.
Out West, there are five teams fighting for the two wildcard slots.
Current Wildcard Standings
- Stars 82 Points; seven games remaining
- Avalanche 81 Points; six games remaining
- Coyotes 79 Points; six games remaining
- Wild 79 Points; six games remaining
- Blackhawks 76 Points; seven games remaining
It is going to be a fight to the finish between the top four teams as they are all within three points of the top spot. The Blackhawks have the hardest hill to climb but with more games than any of the remaining teams in the hunt for the final spot and could use that to their advantage. The best scenario for Chicago is to run-the-table and hope for some help along the way.
The Coyotes have cooled a bit after their recent hot streak and the Wild have struggled a bit down the stretch as well. This could give the Blackhawks the opportunity they need to sneak into the playoffs.
As it stands now, the Stars and Avalanche control their own destiny. Dallas sits comfortably in the top wildcard spot with a game in hand over every team but the Blackhawks.
-Kevin Gesterling covers the Pacific Division in the NHL’s Western Conference for Full Press Coverage. You can reach him on Twitter @kgesterling1.