As The NHL season heads into the final home stretch, 4 teams have already clinched playoff spots. Chicago, Washington, Columbus, and Pittsburgh have all punched their tickets to the postseason. As we stand here on March the 24th we still have 12 berths to be clinched, the 4 division champions to be crowded, seeds to be determined, and the President’s Trophy to handed out.
We start off in the Western Conference,
Chicago: 48-21-6 (102 pts) – Clinched Playoff Berth
Minnesota: 44-24-7 (95 pts)
Nashville: 38-25-11 (87 pts)
St. Louis: 40-28-6 (86 pts) – Holding the 2nd wildcard spot in the west.
As it stands currently, the Chicago Blackhawks have a firm 8 point lead in the Central over Minnesota. The Hawks also have a firm grip on clinching the best regular season record in the Western Conference, This would ensure they get Home-Ice through all 3 rounds of The Western Conference Playoff. This also means if Chicago has to play any Game 7’s they will play them at the United Center when they have a 25-9-5 record at home.
With Minnesota firmly in the #2 slot in the Central, The only race here to watch is St, Louis and Nashville vying for the #3 spot and 1 of the 2 wildcard spots. St. Louis has 86 points and Nashville has 87 points, The Predators, however, have the head-to-head tiebreaker; 3-0 Season series lead with 1 still to play.
Anaheim: 41-23-11 (93 pts)
San Jose: 42-24-7 (91 pts)
Edmonton: 41-25-9 (91 pts)
Calgary: 42-29-4 (88 pts) – Hold the 1st wildcard spot in the West.
In The Pacific Division, The Sharks who once held the top spot but what was once a lead of 7 points is now 2 back of the Ducks and now tied for 2nd with the Oilers, with Calgary only 3 back but very much in the race. The Sharks have led the division for most of the season but now are in a 3-way logjam for the top spot, with the 4th place not far behind. The owner of this spot would be the 2nd Division leader and own Home-Ice through the 1st 2 rounds of the postseason.
The wildcard race in the West has Calgary and St. Louis the current holders of the 2 spots. The LA Kings are really the other realistic team left in the race. They are currently 9 back of St. Louis for the 2nd wildcard spot.
That’s the playoff picture in the West, we now move to the Eastern Conference.
Montreal: 42-24-9 (93 pts)
Ottawa: 41-25-8 (90 pts)
Toronto: 35-24-15 (85 pts)
Boston: 39-30-6 (84 pts)
The Atlantic Division picture sees the Montreal Canadiens are in the lead by 3 points over 2nd place Ottawa. The Senators have been 1 of the nice surprises in the league this year under 1st-year coach Guy Boucher. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the other fine surprise this year, led by Rookie sensation Auston Matthews and a core of young players, the Leafs find themselves in playoff contention.
The Boston Bruins find themselves holders of the 2nd wildcard spot in the league by 2 over the New York Islanders, 3 over Tampa Bay and 5 over Carolina.
Washington: 49-17-8 (106 pts)
Columbus: 48-19-7 (103 pts)
Pittsburgh: 46-18-11 (103 pts)
New York Rangers: 46-26-4 (96 pts)
By far, the division that has been the talk of the NHL this season has been the Metropolitan Division. We see that Washington, Columbus, and Pittsburgh all 29+ games over .500, each with over 100 points, just 3 points separate them in the standing. What a banner year it’s been for this division.
The Washington Capitals continue to pace the league as they did last year on their way to the President’s Trophy. This year they have been just as good defensively as last year and with Kevin Shattenkirk, who they got from St Louis at the headline could be the move that helps them get over the hump.
Clearly, though, the biggest surprise of the year in the NHL has been; the Columbus Blue Jackets. They started 11-5-4, then they racked up 16 wins in a row (the 2nd Longest Win Streak in NHL History), and have been right in the thick of the division from the very start of the season. The success has to be contributed to Ownership, their Hockey Front Office, the players on the roster and my pick as Coach of The Year in John Tortorella.
So we stand here with exactly 3 weeks left in the regular season. And still so much to follow and play for as the NHL’s greatest showcase; the Stanley Cup Playoffs loom ever closer.
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