Push for the Playoffs: Key East, Central Division matchups on Tuesday

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.

Tuesday might end relatively early for NHL action, but it’s jam-packed with games. If you’re a fan of teams in the East and/or Central Divisions, you might want to keep an eye on a scoreboard (or take advantage of picture-in-picture/multiple screens).

In the case of the Central Division, you’re seeing a mix of playoff positioning and also do-or-die stakes. Tuesday basically presents a sequel of Monday’s action. In one game, you have the Stars fighting for their playoff lives, while the Hurricanes hope to pad their lead for the Central Division title. In another, the Predators try to hold off the Stars, and the Panthers aim for that Central Division title. (The Lightning are also in action, and absolutely have a chance to stay in the Central Division title race.)

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

At the other end of the aisle, you have the top four East Division teams squaring off. (Frankly, the Predators and Stars might view their squabbles as “champagne problems.”)

The Capitals hope to move back up to the top spot in the East Division, and massively reduce the Islanders’ chances of a surge. That game airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET. Being that the Bruins have only played in 47 games, that 60-point team could make up ground on the Penguins (67 points in 49 games played), Capitals (66 in 48 GP), and Islanders (63 in 48 GP). No doubt, the Bruins would need some luck to make a leap instead of a smaller hike up the East Division’s top four, but taking care of the Penguins — in regulation — would be a substantial step.

If you need a little activity to kill some time, ask yourself: which of the top four East Division teams would you most and least want to play against in Round 1? Not an easy call, right?

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (matchups by total points)

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

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

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

(NOTE: Dallas currently holds a better points percentage than Nashville — .563 to .560.)

WEST DIVISION
1. Golden Knights vs. 4. Blues
2. Avalanche vs. 3. Wild

TODAY’S KEY GAMES
Bruins vs. Penguins, 7 p.m. ET
Islanders vs. Capitals, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN livestream)
Lightning vs. Blackhawks, 8 p.m. ET
Panthers vs. Predators, 8 p.m. ET
Hurricanes vs. Stars, 8:30 p.m. ET

TUESDAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS
• Florida will clinch a playoff berth if they beat Nashville or they earn one point AND Carolina beats Dallas.

• Tampa Bay will clinch a playoff berth if they beat Chicago or Florida beats Nashville in regulation or they earn at least one point AND Florida beats Nashville or Carolina tops Dallas in regulation.

• Pittsburgh will clinch a playoff berth if they beat Boston AND Buffalo beats the New York Rangers in regulation.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Penguins – 100%
Capitals – 99.91%
Islanders – 97.8%
Bruins – 94.6%
Rangers – 7.5%
Flyers – 0.2%
Devils – eliminated
Sabres – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Maple Leafs – 100%
Oilers – 99.95%
Jets – 99.6%
Canadiens – 89.7%
Flames – 8.2%
Canucks – 2.5%
Senators – 0%

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Hurricanes – Clinched
Panthers – 100%
Lightning – 100%
Predators – 61.7%
Stars – 37.5%
Blackhawks – 0.8%
Red Wings – eliminated
Blue Jackets – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Golden Knights – Clinched
Avalanche – Clinched
Wild – Clinched
Blues – 68.9%
Coyotes – 20.3%
Kings – 7.3%
Sharks – 3.6%
Ducks – 0%

draft lottery
Getty Images

DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE (via MoneyPuck)

Sabres – 17%
Ducks – 13.9%
Devils – 10.9%
Blue Jackets – 9.9%
Senators – 8.1%
Red Wings – 7.7%
Sharks – 5.7%
Kings – 5.3%
Canucks – 5.3%
Coyotes – 3.5%
Blackhawks – 3.1%
Flames – 3.1%
Flyers – 2.1%
Blues – 1.2%

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 81 points
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 66
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 60
Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs – 59
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 58
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 58

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 34 goals
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 28
Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche – 26
Brad Marchand, Bruins – 25
Tyler Toffoli, Canadiens – 25
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 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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