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.

Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

“The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

“We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”

Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

“I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

“Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

“We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

“It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

“I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

“We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

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DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

“I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

“It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

“It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

“We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

“I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

“It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.