With about a month left in the 2021-22 NHL regular season, now is a great time to do a standings check and see who is in the NHL playoffs. Of course, a lot can change over the next few weeks but the playoff races in each conference are pretty well-established. All that’s left is to play the games. Let’s go over the situations for all 16 playoff spots:
The Atlantic Division is a four-team race right now with the Florida Panthers comfortably in first place with 96 points, the Tampa Bay Lightning in second place with 90 points and the Toronto Maple Leafs in third with 89 points. After Toronto beat the Boston Bruins 6-4 on Tuesday night, Boston (87 points) is currently on the outside looking in. All four teams have played exactly 66 games, which makes things simpler.
Florida might be up right now but six points isn’t much with 16 games left to play. The Panthers are the big favorite to win the division but Tampa Bay, at +800, is an intriguing option. There are also plenty of divisional matchups remaining, which are critical for seeding for the NHL playoffs.
Like the Atlantic, the Metropolitan Division is also basically down to four teams. The Carolina Hurricanes (96 points) have a five-point edge on the New York Rangers while the Pittsburgh Penguins are one point behind New York after dropping two games to the Rangers in the past week. Pittsburgh has also played one more game than both the Hurricanes and Rangers.
The Washington Capitals (84 points), like the Penguins, have played 68 games. Washington is still within striking distance of New York and Pittsburgh but probably won’t reach Carolina at this point.
Carolina hasn’t run away with the division completely, though, and the Rangers are +900 to steal the Metropolitan on the NHL playoffs odds. New York has played really well as of late so they have a legitimate chance to make a run at the Hurricanes. The Penguins, at +2000, are a great value as well.
With the Washington Capitals 15 points ahead of the ninth-best team in the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Blue Jackets, there’s basically no chance that any East team who is in the NHL playoffs right now slips out of a playoff spot.
The question is whether the Capitals can push a team like New York or Pittsburgh out of the top three in the Metropolitan since Washington has more than enough time to do so. Boston is so close to the rest of the Atlantic’s top teams that the same can be said for the Bruins as well.
No one is touching the Colorado Avalanche at the top of the Central Division. The Avalanche already have 100 points and are 14 points up on the second-place Minnesota Wild, who have a four-point (and two-game) edge on the third-place Nashville Predators (82 points). The St. Louis Blues (81 points), Dallas Stars (77 points) and Winnipeg Jets (74 points) are right behind.
St. Louis and Dallas currently hold the Western Conference’s two wild card spots but, with how congested the middle-tier of teams are in the West, the positioning shuffles around every day.
The Calgary Flames’ seven-point and two-game lead over the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division is comfortable but not insurmountable. The division odds, like those in the Central, have already been taken off the board with how good the Flames have been.
The Kings are two points up on the third-place Edmonton Oilers but Edmonton has a game in hand. The Vegas Golden Knights, just out of the second wild card spot, are three points behind Edmonton and the Vancouver Canucks are six points behind the Oilers. Expect plenty of flip-flopping between Los Angeles, Edmonton and Vegas down the stretch.
As of Wednesday, the St. Louis Blues are the first wild card team and have a four-point lead over the Dallas Stars with both teams having played 65 games. The Vegas Golden Knights (76 points in 68 games) are the first team out and are two points up on the Winnipeg Jets (67 games) and three points up on the Vancouver Canucks (68 games).