There are really only three playoff spots that are still up for grabs in the Western Conference (Minnesota and San Jose have not officially clinched, but their spots are pretty secure) with four teams — St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings — competing for them.
All four of those teams are in action on Saturday night.
Two of them, the Kings and Ducks, are playing each other in what might be one of the biggest games of the night.
Let’s take a look at the standings in the Western Conference before we dive into the games.
As mentioned above one of the biggest games of the night is Anaheim where the Kings are looking for their third win in a row. After going more than a month alternating wins and losses, the Kings have finally won consecutive games thanks to back-to-back wins over the Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes. That has helped them climb back into the third spot in the Pacific Division and put them three points clear of the first non-playoff team.
This is the classic “four-point game” in the standings because a regulation win for either team will have a pretty big impact on the playoff race. If the Kings win in regulation, it puts them four points clear of the Ducks with a week to go in the regular season. That is a tough gap to make up. A Ducks win pulls them back even and sets up what would be a frantic finish down the stretch.
Meanwhile, the suddenly surging Blues go for their seventh win in a row when they take on the Vegas Golden Knights. The Blues have won eight of their past nine and are 9-1-1 since snapping a seven-game losing streak that could have easily knocked them out of the race. Now they are sitting in the first Wild Card spot and look to keep things rolling on Friday night against a Vegas team that is still trying to wrap up the Pacific Division crown.
Colorado enters the day on the outside of the playoff picture sitting one point back of both the Blues and Ducks. The Avalanche have slumped a bit recently with losses in three of their past four games, a stretch that has seen them score just four goals in regulation (they have literally scored one goal every game. Their only win during this stretch has been a 2-1 shootout win over Vegas).
Depending on what happens with their game and the St. Louis and Anaheim-Los Angeles games the Avalanche could either find themselves back in the first wild card spot or really facing a tough deficit down the stretch.
[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]
As for the Eastern Conference.
The only thing really up for grabs on Friday night in the East is division titles.
The Capitals can take a big step toward securing their third consecutive Metropolitan Division crown with a win over the Carolina Hurricanes. They would give them a seven-point edge over the Pittsburgh Penguins with only four games remaining on each team’s schedule, including a head-to-head meeting on Sunday.
After losing to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night and falling into second place in the Atlantic Division the Tampa Bay Lightning have a chance to reclaim the top spot on Friday night if they can beat the New York Rangers.
If The Playoffs Started Today
Boston Bruins vs. New Jersey Devils
Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks
Vegas Golden Knights vs. St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets vs. Minnesota Wild
San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
Friday’s Key Games
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers, 7 p.m ET
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Colorado Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET
Los Angeles Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks, 10 p.m. ET
St. Louis Blues vs. Vegas Golden Knights, 10:30 p.m. ET