NHL Playoff Push: Blues, Avalanche meet for last spot in West

The 2017-18 regular season will conclude for 29 teams on Saturday (Boston and Florida play a makeup game on Sunday) which means we could have the entire playoff field and all of the first-round matchups set when the day concludes.

There are still two playoff spots up for grabs and four teams fighting for them.

Here is how everything looks heading into the day.

Let’s start with the Eastern Conference where the eighth and final spot could be wrapped up by the early evening.

 

With their 5-0 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers are in and the Florida Panthers are officially eliminated.

The rest of the Eastern Conference playoff picture comes down to seeding.

In the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning can wrap up the division and the top overall seed in the East if they beat the Carolina Hurricanes in regulation or in overtime, or if they lose in overtime and the Bruins lose to the Senators, or just simply if the Bruins lose.

A Tampa Bay loss still leaves the door open for Boston to win the Atlantic if they win their two games this weekend.

Whichever team does not win the Atlantic has a first-round date with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Metropolitan Division is where things get a little interesting in the East.

Washington is locked into the top spot there and will play the top wild card team, while Pittsburgh secured the No. 2 spot and home-ice advantage in the first-round with its 4-0 win over the Senators on Friday night.

Who those two teams play is still up for grabs.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, the team currently in the No. 3 spot, are in Nashville on Saturday night and are sitting several of the regulars including Artemi PanarinZach Werenski, and Sergei Bobrovsky.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella insists that is not being done to potentially avoid a first-round matchup with the Penguins.

Aaron Portzline

 
@Aportzline

 

 

Question: “So this isn’t a case of ‘Let’s not play Pittsburgh in the first round’”?
Tortorella: “Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not.”

5:27 PM - Apr 7, 2018

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The Devils are also sitting several players for their regular season finale against the Washington Capitals, including MVP front-runner Taylor Hall.

Any of Columbus, New Jersey or Philadelphia could wind up in that first-round matchup against the Penguins.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference…

The big game here is in Colorado where the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche are literally playing for a playoff spot. If the Blues simply get one point they claim the second wild card spot and get a first-round date with the Nashville Predators.

If the Avalanche win in regulation they jump over the Blues and take that spot. That could lead to a pretty interesting late-game situation if things are tied late in the third period and Colorado would have to pull its goalie in an effort to get the regulation win.

The No. 2 vs. 3 matchup in the Central Division is already set in stone with the Winnipeg Jets playing the Minnesota Wild.

The only other things up for grabs are seeding and home-ice in the Pacific Division.

Thanks to their 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars on Friday night the Ducks are still in a position to grab home-ice if they can jump over the San Jose Sharks (the enter the day separated by just a single point). The Los Angeles Kings, currently in the first wild card spot, are also still in a position to potentially claim home-ice in the first-round as they own the tiebreaker over both the Sharks and Ducks.

The Kings host the Stars, while the Ducks are in Arizona. The Sharks host Minnesota.

If The Playoffs Started Today

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Washington Capitals vs. New Jersey Devils
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Los Angeles Kings
Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild
San Jose Sharks vs. Anaheim Ducks

Saturday’s Important Games

Philadelphia Flyers 5, New York Rangers 0
Ottawa Senators vs. Boston Bruins, 7 p.m. ET
Buffalo Sabres vs. Florida Panthers, 7 p.m. ET
New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Nashville Predators, 8 p.m. ET
Anaheim Ducks vs. Arizona Coyotes, 9 p.m. ET
St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET
Dallas Stars vs. Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota Wild vs. San Jose Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET