NHL Push for the Playoffs: Avalanche aim to thrive, Kings to survive

nhl push for playoffs
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Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2021-22 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 the simplest of terms, you can separate NHL teams into three levels of urgency at this point in the season:

  • Teams building for the future, possibly tanking, and almost certainly thinking about golf/vacation.
  • Clear playoff teams that want to make a good thing better with home-ice advantage. Greedy ones may even just want to chase records, or to finish strong.
  • Those who are still battling for their “playoff lives.”

When you get a titan vs. a tanking team, it can be a little dreary. Meanwhile, those rooting against a team on the playoff bubble can really feel some angst watching that team face a squad that’s checked-out (or, you know, just flat-out bad).

Every now and then, you get the two broad flavors of possible playoff teams, though.

On Wednesday night, a rested Avalanche powerhouse team faces a more desperate Kings squad that took care of business against the Blackhawks on Tuesday.

[Check out where the Kings and Avs place in PHT’s Power Rankings]

With the Panthers absolutely on fire, the Avalanche are no longer alone in their chase for the Presidents’ Trophy. Colorado’s hot in its own right, having won six in a row. Considering that the Avalanche have dealt with injuries, they probably want to get as close to full speed as possible.

(Granted, those brushes with injuries also should remind them that you don’t necessarily need to throw punches after every whistle.)

No doubt, the Avalanche’s ambitions translate to “champagne problems” from the Kings’ perspective. Overall, the Kings are still very much in a battle for playoff survival, and can’t feel too comfortable with Drew Doughty done for the season.

Lately, there have been plenty of ups and downs. The absolute most recent trend is upward, with the Kings winning, the Oilers losing, and the Golden Knights dropping a crucial contest to the Canucks in OT.

Granted, for all the talk about the higher stakes for the Kings, there’s at least some room for higher ambitions. The gap between the Oilers and Kings isn’t that large, so there’s an outside chance Los Angeles may even gain home-ice advantage. That would be a step up from merely surviving.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (sorted by points percentage)

ATLANTIC DIVISION
Panthers vs. Capitals
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

METROPOLITAN DIVISION
Hurricanes vs. Bruins
Rangers vs. Penguins

CENTRAL DIVISION
Avalanche vs. Stars
Wild vs. Blues

PACIFIC DIVISION
Flames vs. Predators
Oilers vs. Kings

TODAY’S KEY GAMES

Kings vs. Avalanche, 9:30 p.m. ET

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Panthers – clinched
Maple Leafs – clinched
Lightning – 100%
Bruins – 100%
Red Wings – eliminated
Sabres – eliminated
Senators – eliminated
Canadiens – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Hurricanes – clinched
Rangers – clinched
Penguins – 100%
Capitals – 99.98%
Islanders – 0%
Blue Jackets – 0%
Flyers – eliminated
Devils – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Avalanche – clinched
Wild – 100%
Blues – 100%
Predators – 92.1%
Stars – 83.9%
Jets – 0.5%
Blackhawks – eliminated
Coyotes – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Flames – 100%
Oilers – 96.6%
Kings – 85.3%
Golden Knights – 35.9%
Canucks – 5.7%
Ducks – eliminated
Sharks – 0%
Kraken – eliminated

nhl push for playoffs
Getty Images

DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE (via Tankathon)

16.6% – Coyotes
12.1% – Canadiens
10.9% – Kraken
9.7% – Flyers
8.5% – Devils
7.6% – Blackhawks (*conditional)
6.7% – Senators
5.8% – Sabres
5.4% – Red Wings
4.5% – Sharks
3.1% – Ducks
2.7% – Blue Jackets
2.2% – Islanders
1.8% – Jets
1.4% – Canucks
1% – Golden Knights (*conditional)

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE

Connor McDavid, Oilers – 108 points
Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers – 105
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 102
Johnny Gaudreau, Flames – 101
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 99
Matthew Tkachuk, Flames – 92

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 58 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 51
Chris Kreider, Rangers – 50
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 46
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 42
Kyle Connor, Jets – 42
Kirill Kaprizov, Wild – 42

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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