Handicapping the NHL Playoff Race

by Sean Murphy

While all eight playoff berths have been clinched in the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference is still wide open as the chase for the final four playoff spots continues. Here's a look at how the race shapes up as we approach the final week of the regular season.

Battle for second

The Oilers and Kings continue to battle it out for the second spot in the Pacific Division. Edmonton currently sits two points ahead of Los Angeles and certainly has the inside track with a pair of games in hand. The Oilers will have the benefit of playing four of their final six games at home. The Kings play their next two games at home - both against non-playoff opponents in the Blackhawks and Ducks - before wrapping up with consecutive road games in Seattle and Vancouver. The Golden Knights are still in the picture as well, but sit five points back of the Kings with just one game in hand and figure to be more of a player in the Wild Card race, as outlined below.

Central in order


All three playoff spots have been wrapped up in the Central Division, with the Avalanche having clinched top spot, but we could still see some movement as the Wild and Blues sit tied for second in terms of points (Minnesota currently holds the tie-breaker). The Wild have a game in hand and also play five of their final six regular season games on home ice. The Blues on the other hand, open a four-game road trip in San Jose on Thursday night. While the Blues have been red hot, you have to think the Wild have the inside track on grabbing second place and the opening round home ice advantage that goes along with it.

Wild card hunt


It's essentially a four-team race (for two spots) as far as the Western Wild Card goes. The Predators and Stars currently hold down the two playoff berths with the Knights and Canucks still in the mix but facing an uphill battle. Both Vegas and Vancouver have five games remaining and both sit four points back of the Stars. The good news for Vegas is that it still has one game left against the Stars, albeit in Dallas. The Canucks coughed up an important point in a shootout loss to Ottawa on Wednesday and will now have to play three of their final five games on the road, with of those games coming against playoff teams. 

The NHL regular season wraps up on April 29th (for all intents and purposes - the Kraken and Jets do play a make-up game on May 1st) with the Stanley Cup Playoffs getting underway on May 2nd. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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