Push for the Playoffs: Presidents’ Trophy is Avalanche’s to win — or lose

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.

In a sport with “three-point games” and “charity points,” the stakes of any single contest can sometimes feel a little fuzzy.

With that in mind, the final showdown for the Presidents’ Trophy is refreshingly straightforward. If the Avalanche beat the Kings on Thursday, then they’ll climb over the Golden Knights and win the Presidents’ Trophy. If the Kings beat the Avs, then Vegas gains that top spot.

If the Avalanche win, they take the West Division title and home-ice advantage throughout the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs; they’d draw the Blues. If the Avs lose, they’d face the Wild, and the Golden Knights would draw St. Louis.

“The Presidents’ Trophy) was our goal in training camp and here we are, one win away from doing that,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said after Wednesday’s win, via the Denver Post. “Having said that, we know it’s just Step 1 and then a lot of work is going to start after that. We know the playoffs are the playoffs, a completely new season and you have to prove yourself once again. We know how important matchups are in the playoffs and if we’re able to have Game 7s in our building and to start off series in our building that’s a big key for us. So we’re excited for tomorrow.”

[2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule]

While the Kings technically don’t have anything on the line vs. the Avs, this could also be an interesting opportunity. The rebuilding team can get a little taste of some playoff intensity, even if Colorado might hold a bit back with the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs right around the corner.

Home-ice advantage might seem trivial now, but could be pretty big for a Game 7. Especially if teams like the Golden Knights push closer to full capacity.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (matchups by total points)

EAST DIVISION
1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 4. New York Islanders — series official
2. Washington Capitals vs. 3. Boston Bruins — series official

CENTRAL DIVISION
1. Carolina Hurricanes vs. 4. Nashville Predators — series official
2. Florida Panthers vs. 3. Tampa Bay Lightning — series official

NORTH DIVISION
1. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 4. Montreal Canadiens — series official
2. Edmonton Oilers vs. 3. Winnipeg Jets — series official

WEST DIVISION
1. Vegas Golden Knights vs. 4. St. Louis Blues
2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 3. Minnesota Wild

TODAY’S KEY NHL GAMES
Kings vs. Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET

THURSDAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS
• Colorado will clinch the Presidents’ Trophy and No. 1 seed in the West if they beat LA.

• Vegas will clinch the Presidents’ Trophy and No. 1 seed in the West if LA beats Colorado in any fashion.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES

Penguins – Clinched division title
Capitals – Clinched
Bruins – Clinched
Islanders – Clinched
Rangers – eliminated
Flyers – eliminated
Devils – eliminated
Sabres – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES

Hurricanes – Clinched division title
Panthers – Clinched
Lightning – Clinched
Predators – Clinched
Stars – eliminated
Blackhawks – eliminated
Red Wings – eliminated
Blue Jackets – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES

Maple Leafs – Clinched division title
Oilers – Clinched
Jets – Clinched
Canadiens – Clinched
Flames – eliminated
Canucks – eliminated
Senators – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES

Golden Knights – Clinched
Avalanche – Clinched
Wild – Clinched
Blues – Clinched
Kings – eliminated
Coyotes – eliminated
Sharks – eliminated
Ducks – eliminated

draft lottery
Getty Images

DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE (via MoneyPuck)

Sabres – 18.5%
Ducks – 13.5%
Devils – 11.4%
Blue Jackets – 9.2%
Red Wings – 8.2%
Canucks – 7.3%
Sharks – 6.5%
Senators – 6.1%
Kings – 5.6%
Coyotes – 3.4%
Flames- 3%
Blackhawks – 2.8%
Flyers – 2%
Stars – 1.5%
Rangers – 1%

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE

Connor McDavid, Oilers – 104 points
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 83
Brad Marchand, Bruins – 69
Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs – 67
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 66
Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 66

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 41 goals
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 33
Alex DeBrincat, Blackhawks – 32
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 31
Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche – 30

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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