Analyzing the remaining NHL Playoff races


We are down to the final days of the 2018-19 regular season and as of Thursday there are still four playoff spots up for grabs, two divisions that need to be won, and seedings to be set.

So let’s take a closer look at who is still in it, what they have ahead of them, and what all can happen over the next four days.


The Playoff Spots Up For Grabs

In the Eastern Conference there are four teams fighting for three remaining playoff spots as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens compete.

The Penguins and Hurricanes could claim two of those spots on Thursday night.

The Penguins have three potential paths to clinching a playoff spot: A win against the Detroit Red Wings; an overtime or shootout loss combined with either a Montreal loss in any fashion OR a Carolina loss in regulation; A Montreal loss in regulation.

The Hurricanes are in on Thursday if they win in regulation and Montreal loses in any fashion, or if they win in a shootout and Montreal loses in regulation.

The Canadiens can not clinch a playoff spot on Thursday, while Columbus has the night off.

Remaining Schedules For All Four Teams

Pittsburgh Penguins: Detroit Red Wings (H), New York Rangers (H)
Carolina Hurricanes: New Jersey Devils (H), Philadelphia Flyers (A)
Columbus Blue Jackets: New York Rangers (A), Ottawa Senators (A)
Montreal Canadiens: Washington Capitals (A), Toronto Maple Leafs (H)

While the Penguins, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets all wrap up their regular season schedules with teams on the outside of the playoff picture, the Canadiens have to play a team fighting for a division championship and their biggest rival in the regular season finale. They are not only on the outside of the playoff picture entering Thursday, they have what is by the toughest road in terms of the remaining schedule.


Everything is clinched. The Tampa Bay Lightning have secured the top spot and will play the second wild card team in the first round, while the 2-3 matchup is locked in with the Boston Bruins facing the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins will have home ice advantage.

The winner of that series will play the winner of the Tampa Bay-WC2 in Round 2.


Who can still win it: Washington Capitals, New York Islanders

The Capitals enter Thursday night with a three-point lead over the Islanders, and can clinch it in one of three ways. If they win, if they get one point and the Islanders lose in any fashion, or if the Islanders lose in regulation. If the Capitals fail to secure the division title on Thursday night it sets up a winner-take-all regular season finale in Washington on Saturday, when the Capitals will host the Islanders.

Given the circumstances (Barry Trotz returning to Washington one year after leading the Capitals to a Stanley Cup and trying to steal the division away on the final day of the regular season?!) it would probably be the game of the year.

Remaining schedules for both teams

Washington Capitals: Montreal Canadiens (H), New York Islanders (H)
New York Islanders: Florida Panthers (A), Washington Capitals (A)

Potential seeding still up for grabs

This is the division that has the potential for the most chaos.

While only the Capitals and Islanders can still claim the top spot, every spot after first place is up for grabs. The Islanders, Penguins, and Hurricanes could all still finish as high as second place and get home-ice advantage Round 1, while the Blue Jackets can finish no higher than third. The Capitals can finish no lower than second. All of that means the 2 vs. 3 matchup could feature anything from Penguins-Capitals, to Islanders-Penguins, to Islanders-Blue Jackets, to Capitals-Hurricanes, to Capitals-Blue Jackets.


The playoff spot up for grabs

There is only one playoff spot still open, and it is coming down to the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes.

The Avalanche clinch with at least one point in the standings or any loss by the Coyotes.

The situation is very simple: The only way Arizona can take the second Wild Card spot is if the Avalanche lose their remaining two games in regulation and the Coyotes win their remaining two games in regulation or overtime. Basically, the Coyotes need a small miracle. It seems like a long shot, yes, but the very fact they are still even in the race given all of the injuries they have dealt with this season and where they were coming from a year ago is something of a small miracle on its own.

Neither team has a favorable schedule, and that definitely favors the Avalanche.

Remaining schedules for both teams

Colorado Avalanche: Winnipeg Jets (H), San Jose Sharks (A)
Arizona Coyotes: Vegas Golden Knights (A), Winnipeg Jets (H)


Who can still win it: Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues

The Jets can clinch the division on Thursday if they win AND Nashville loses in regulation and the Blues lose in any fashion.

Remaining schedules for all three teams

Winnipeg Jets: Colorado Avalanche (A), Arizona Coyotes (A)
Nashville Predators: Vancouver Canucks (H), Chicago Blackhawks (H)
St. Louis Blues: Philadelphia Flyers (H), Vancouver Canucks (H)

Seedings still up for grabs

All of them. The Jets, Predators, and Blues could all finish anywhere from first to third, while the Blues could also drop down to fourth as the Dallas Stars still have a very slim chance to move up to the third spot if they win out and the Blues lose out. Like the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference, there are an insane number of potential Round 1 matchups still in play here.

If Dallas loses its remaining two games and the Avalanche win their remaining two games, the Stars could also fall down to the second Wild Card spot and have to face the top-seed Calgary Flames.


Everything is clinched.

The Calgary Flames have locked up the division and the top spot in the Western Conference, giving them a Round 1 meeting with the second Wild Card team (Dallas, Colorado, or Arizona).

Meanwhile the 2 vs. 3 matchup is locked in between the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, with San Jose claiming home-ice advantage.

Related: Avalanche on verge of playoff berth

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blues face prime opportunity to return to Stanley Cup Final

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When you have your opponent looking down and out in a playoff series you do not want to let them get back up.

You do not even want to give them the chance to get back up.

You want to eliminate them when you have the opportunity and remove all doubt, avoiding what would be an all-or-nothing Game 7 on the road.

That is the position the St. Louis Blues find themselves in heading into Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream) when they will host an injury-riddled San Jose Sharks team.

The Blues have won the past two games, including a thoroughly dominant performance on Sunday, they are at home, and they are facing a Sharks team that is without two of its best players and potentially a third that will almost certainly not be 100 percent if he does play.

Everything has fallen in the Blues’ favor for this game, and it is hard to imagine a better opportunity to close out a series than this.


Just look at everything that is sitting in the Blues’ corner for this game.

  • Their best player, Vladimir Tarasenko, has gone on a tear and is riding a five-game point streak heading into Tuesday’s game. He was always going to be one of the biggest factors in this series and has found his scoring touch at just the right time.
  • The Sharks will not have Erik Karlsson, one of their most important players and a defender that can single-handedly change a team and a game when he is in the lineup. This series started to shift in the Blues’ favor when Karlsson’s groin injury resurfaced, limiting his ability to make an impact. He was obviously less than 100 percent in the Blues’ Game 4 win and barely played in Game 5 on Sunday. The Blues have outscored the Sharks by a 7-1 margin in those two games. Even though the Sharks still have another Norris Trophy winner (and a Norris Trophy finalist this season) in Brent Burns in their lineup, they are definitely a weaker team when one of them is out of the lineup.
  • The Sharks will also be without Tomas Hertl, currently their second-leading goal-scorer. With Hertl and Karlsson out it means the Sharks will be playing a must-win game without two of the top-six scorers in the playoffs and two players that have been involved in an overwhelming majority of their offense. At least one of Hertl or Karlsson has been on the ice for 39 of the Sharks’ 57 goals, while one of them has scored or assisted on 25 of them. When neither one is on the ice the Sharks have averaged just 2.22 goals per 60 minutes (all situations) in the playoffs. Not a great number.

So, yeah, this is a huge opportunity for the Blues and a game where it would probably be in their best interest to take care of business.

A loss on Tuesday night not only sends them to a Game 7 in San Jose where anything can happen, it also leaves open the possibility that one of those two key Sharks players (or even both of them) could be available. Yes, the Blues have been great on the road in these playoffs, but there is no guarantee that continues, especially in a win-or-go-home situation.

Even without Hertl and Karlsson the Sharks still have plenty of talent on their roster, so this game is far from a cake-walk for the Blues. But this is definitely the weakest lineup they are going to face in this matchup and there is never going to be a better opportunity to end a 49 year Stanley Cup Final drought than this night.

If they are going to do it, this seems like the game for it to happen.

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Karlsson, Hertl out for Game 6; Pavelski game-time decision


If the San Jose Sharks are going to force a Game 7 in the Western Conference Final against the St. Louis Blues they are going to have to do it on Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live Stream) without a couple of their most important players.

Coach Pete DeBoer announced after the morning skate that defender Erik Karlsson and forward Tomas Hertl are not available for Game 6 against and that they did not even accompany the team on the road trip to St. Louis.

Both players exited the Sharks’ Game 5 loss on Sunday due to injury.

Karlsson has been hampered by a nagging groin injury that has resurfaced in the playoffs, while Hertl had to leave the game after he was on the receiving end of a high hit from Blues forward Ivan Barbashev. There was no penalty called on the play and Barbashev was not disciplined by the league.

Captain Joe Pavelski also exited Sunday’s game with an injury and did not take part in the morning skate on Tuesday but is a game-time decision according to DeBoer.

Pavelski had previously missed the first six games of the Sharks’ Round 2 series against the Colorado Avalanche after he was injured in their Game 7 win against the Vegas Golden Knights. He has five points (two goals, three assists) since returning to the lineup.


While Pavelski at least seems like a possibility to play, the losses of Karlsson and Hertl are going to be significant for the Sharks.

Even though Karlsson has been limited by injury for much of the season he has still been an impact player and played a huge role in the team’s Round 1 comeback against the Golden Knights. He has 16 total points in 19 games and is the league’s fifth-leading scorer in the playoffs. It was obvious he was struggling in the Sharks’ Game 4 loss but still attempted to play in Game 5. It did not go well as he was clearly unable to play up to his normal level and logged just 10 minutes of ice time, with only three of those minutes coming after the first period.

Hertl, meanwhile, has been one of the Sharks’ most dynamic forwards and has scored some of their biggest goals this postseason, including a game-winning shorthanded goal in double overtime to help the team fight off elimination in Round 1, and one of the power play goals in their come-from-behind Game 7 win against the Golden Knights.

He has 10 goals (third among all players in the playoffs) and 15 total points.

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canes’ Martinook, de Haan have offseason surgeries

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook and defenseman Calvin de Haan have had offseason surgeries.

General manager Don Waddell said Tuesday that Martinook had a procedure on a core muscle while de Haan’s surgery was on his right shoulder.

Martinook is expected to recover in 4-6 weeks while de Haan will be out 4-6 months.

The 26-year-old Martinook had a career-best 15 goals with five game-winners, and was in and out of the lineup during the playoffs due to injuries. The 28-year-old de Haan injured his shoulder against Pittsburgh on March 31 but returned for Game 4 of the first-round playoff series against Washington.

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Blues seeking a shot at redemption as they try to close out Sharks


A lot has happened in the past 49 years.

Cell phones, Instagram, selfies and, for the purposes of this story, a whole lot of hockey. What hasn’t happened in nearly half a century, however, is a St. Louis Blues team opposite another in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Blues could get with the times if they’re to find a way past the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream).

Some history…

It was 1970 when St. Louis made their third straight appearance in the Cup Final, their most recent. Having been swept in their previous two attempts, both at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, the Blues were now coming up against another Original Six team with Bobby Orr’s Boston Bruins.

Different team, different legends, same result.

The Bruins snatched the broom from the Canadiens and repeated the process against the Blues thanks, in part, to one of the most iconic goals in NHL history that Number 4 scored in overtime to clinch the Stanley Cup.

The Blues are one win away from a chance at redemption, nearly 50 years in the making.

“It’s probably tough to put into words,” Blues forward Jaden Schwartz said. “It’s something that everyone’s worked for and dreamed about. You don’t want to look too far ahead. We all know how important and how hard that last win’s going to be. It would be a dream come true.”

The Sharks are treading familiar water heading into the game, something the Blues are acutely aware of.

“We’re close. We’re very close right now,” Blues forward Patrick Maroon said. “I think the guys know that. It’s in the back of their heads, but we know that that’s a good hockey team over there too and they’re not going to give up.”


Some, even, won’t talk about it just yet.

“We will talk about it when we get there,” Alexander Steen said.

No team has been to more Stanley Cup Playoffs than the St. Louis Blues and not hoisted hockey’s holy grail at some point in June. Their 42 playoff appearances is far and away the most by any team (Buffalo is second with 29). A win Tuesday would also end the second-longest Cup Final drought in NHL history (behind only Toronto).

“It’s gonna be a lot of emotion and it’s important our players keep it in check,” head coach Craig Berube said. Our players have done a pretty good job of … focusing. I don’t expect anything different. It’s important at the start of the game you’re simple and direct. Keep your emotions in check and not let them get out of control.”

MORE: Tarasenko getting hot at right time for Blues

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck