Let’s look at the playoff races after Saturday’s action

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The NHL is planted deeply in a stretch where “must-win games” really are starting to resemble actual must-win games.

So, each night is important, but with some key head-to-head matches and just a lot of games in general, let’s touch on some of the biggest developments.

East – Atlantic

  • The Florida Panthers are firmly planted in first place in the Atlantic after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning. If that isn’t bad enough for the Bolts, Nikita Kucherov and Anton Stralman are injured. Not a great weekend for Tampa Bay. (More here.)
  • The Boston Bruins remain three points behind the Lightning for second place after breaking their slump by beating the Maple Leafs.

East – Metro

  • By edging the Habs, the New York Rangers are comfortably seated in second behind the Capitals.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins pulverized the Detroit Red Wings, leaving them four points behind the Rangers at third place. (More here.)

East – Wild card

  • It was dicey for a while there, but the New York Islanders beat the Carolina Hurricanes. With that, the Isles hold the first wild card spot and trail the Penguins by one point for third in the Metro.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers had a chance to fatten their lead over the Red Wings for the second wild card spot. Instead, they lost, so the Flyers and Red Wings are locked at 85 points. The Flyers hold a game in hand, so they sit in the last wild card spot.

Want the shorter version? TSN’s Bob McKenzie runs it down:

West – Wild card

  • Starting here with arguably the most important result of Saturday: the Minnesota Wild beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-0. While the Avalanche hold one game in hand, this win gives Minnesota a five-point standings lead over Colorado for the second wild card spot. The Avs face very long playoff odds. (More here.)
  • The Nashville Predators won their game, but so did the Chicago Blackhawks, so Nashville is still clearly the first wild card in the West. They still have a shot at climbing into the Central’s three, though.

West – Central

  • Remarkably, the top five teams in Central all won, with No.6 (Colorado) losing to No. 5 (Minnesota).
  • While the Blackhawks hope to hold off the Predators for third place, the Stars and Blues remain tied at 99 standings points. Nothing changed, as Dallas stays in first thanks to a tiebreaker (43 ROW to Blues’ 40). So Stars in first, Blues virtually tied but at second and ‘Hawks are in third.

West – Pacific

  • The Los Angeles Kings won (staying in first), so did the Anaheim Ducks (firmly in second) and the San Jose Sharks lost, keeping them in third. So the norm remains. (Here’s a post on the Ducks’ win, and also video of a Jonathan Quick save.)

McKenzie also summarized the West:

Pretty much. That said, if you’re more of a visual learner, here’s the NHL standings page.