Push for the Playoffs: Bruins, Penguins battle for East Division seeding

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2020-21 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

If you’re only interested in races for final playoff spots, then the East Division probably won’t be your ticket this season. Blame part of that on the Flyers and Rangers not quite being able to keep pace.

But, if you’re excited about four good-to-great teams jockeying for playoff positioning, then the Bruins, Capitals, Islanders, and Penguins look like they’re going to fit the bill.

On Sunday, two of those teams square off, as the Bruins face the Penguins on NBC at 3 p.m. ET (livestream).

If you scroll down this Push for the Playoffs page, you can see that the Penguins trail the East-leading Capitals by a single standings point, while the Bruins can close much of the gap considering their two games in hand.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Both the Bruins and the Penguins are fascinating because of how much their outlooks have twisted and turned during this turbulent 2020-21 NHL season.

Back in January, the Penguins seemed to be in disarray, even beyond their GM abruptly up-and-leaving. Aside from a strangely slow scoring start, the Bruins didn’t experience the same angst, but certain personnel losses kept them from getting much love as true contenders.

Each team looks a lot more formidable today, though. In the Bruins’ case, part of their surge comes from making moves that should leave other teams kicking themselves. As a whole, the NHL was far too down on Taylor Hall, and the Bruins exploited that malaise to get him for pocket change.

All of a sudden, the Bruins look like a deeper team, while the Penguins have been trending up for quite some time. It’s unclear where these teams will end up in the East Division’s top four, but both the Penguins and Bruins have a chance to make serious noise once the playoffs begin.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (matchups by total points)

1. Capitals vs. 4. Bruins
2. Penguins vs. 3 Islanders

1. Maple Leafs vs. 4. Canadiens
2. Jets vs. 3. Oilers

1. Hurricanes vs. 4. Predators
2. Panthers vs. 3 Lightning

(NOTE: Dallas currently holds a better points percentage than Nashville — .553 to .551.)

1. Golden Knights vs. 4. Coyotes
2. Avalanche vs. 3. Wild

(NOTE: St. Louis currently holds a better points percentage than Arizona — .511 to .490.)

Bruins vs. Penguins, 3 p.m. ET (NBC livestream)
Blue Jackets vs. Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN livestream)

Push for the Playoffs: Bruins, Penguins battle for East Division seeding


Penguins – 99.98%
Capitals – 99.92%
Islanders – 98.5%
Bruins – 97.6%
Rangers – 4%
Flyers – 0.1%
Devils – eliminated
Sabres – eliminated

Push for the Playoffs: North Division standings April 25


Maple Leafs – 100%
Jets – 99.7%
Oilers – 99.6%
Canadiens – 71.9%
Flames – 22.1%
Canucks – 6.7%
Senators – 0%

Central Division standings April 25


Hurricanes – 100%
Panthers – 100%
Lightning – 99.99%
Predators – 56.2%
Stars – 42.5%
Blackhawks – 1.3%
Red Wings – 0%
Blue Jackets – eliminated

Push for the Playoffs: West Division standings April 25


Golden Knights – Clinched
Avalanche – Clinched
Wild – Clinched
Blues – 50.7%
Coyotes – 38%
Kings – 7.8%
Sharks – 3.6%
Ducks – 0%

draft lottery
Getty Images


Sabres – 16.9%
Ducks – 13.2%
Devils – 10.9%
Blue Jackets – 10.2%
Senators – 8.6%
Red Wings – 7.5%
Sharks – 6.2%
Kings – 5.6%
Canucks – 4.6%
Blackhawks – 3.2%
Coyotes – 2.6%
Flames – 2.5%
Flyers – 2.3%
Blues – 2%

Connor McDavid, Oilers – 77 points
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 64
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 59
Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs – 59
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 58
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 58

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 34 goals
Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche – 26
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 25
Brad Marchand, Bruins – 25
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 24
Tyler Toffoli, Canadiens – 24

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.

    Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

    Andrei Kuzmenko
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

    The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

    The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

    Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

    His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

    Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

    He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

    He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

    A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

    Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.