Push for the Playoffs

Push for the Playoffs if NHL does not pause regular season
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Push for the Playoffs: In the event the push doesn’t go on pause

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(Update: The NHL decided to “pause” the 2019-20 season, so Thursday’s games have been canceled. Read more.)

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2019-20 NHL season, barring a pause. 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.

As discussed in Thursday’s Morning Skate, it’s difficult to ignore the elephant in the room. While the NHL pushed the decision back on Wednesday, they’ll need to make the call soon. Will they put the season (and thus the Push for the Playoffs) on pause because of the coronavirus, much like the NBA, or will there be another solution? Could we see each team play multiple games in empty arenas?

A lot is unknown as of this writing.

Frankly, there’s also a lot to settle when it comes to various playoff races. If Thursday’s 10 games do take place, they will have serious implications for the standings.

Teams in dogfights for playoff spots cannot allow distractions to disrupt their games. That’s easier said than done, but teams like the Hurricanes, Panthers, Predators, Islanders, Coyotes, and others have little choice but to battle until the league blows the whistle to pause the Push for the Playoffs … you know, or not.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Bruins vs. Blue Jackets
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Lightning vs. Maple Leafs
Flyers vs. Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Blues vs. Predators
Golden Knights vs. Jets
Avalanche vs. Stars
Oilers vs. Flames

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS

Games canceled, season put on hold.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Bruins – 100 percent
Lightning – 100 percent
Capitals – 99.9
Flyers – 99.4
Penguins – 95.5
Hurricanes – 79.3
Maple Leafs – 73.9
Islanders – 53.2
Panthers – 43.6
Blue Jackets – 33
Rangers – 22.2
Canadiens – 0
Sabres – 0
Senators – 0
Devils – 0
Red Wings – OUT

WESTERN CONFERENCE

 

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Blues – 100 percent
Avalanche – 100
Golden Knights – 99
Stars – 95.6
Oilers – 93.3
Canucks – 67.9
Flames – 65
Jets – 56.8
Predators – 54.7
Wild – 49.6
Coyotes – 15.5
Blackhawks – 2.6
Ducks – 0
Kings – 0
Sharks – 0

THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE

Detroit Red Wings — 18.5 percent
Ottawa Senators  — 13.5 percent
Ottawa Senators* — 11.5 percent
Los Angeles Kings — 9.5 percent
Anaheim Ducks — 8.5 percent
New Jersey Devils — 7.5 percent
Buffalo Sabres — 6.5 percent
Montreal Canadiens — 6 percent
Chicago Blackhawks — 5 percent
New Jersey Devils** — 3.5 percent
Minnesota Wild  — 3 percent
Winnipeg Jets — 2.5 percent
New York Rangers — 2 percent
Florida Panthers — 1.5 percent
Columbus Blue Jackets — 1 percent

(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE

Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 110 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 97 points
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 95 points
Artemi Panarin, Rangers – 95 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 93 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

David Pastrnak, Bruins – 48 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 48 goals
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 47 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 43 goals
Mika Zibanejad, Rangers – 41 goals

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.

Jets swoop into top West wild-card spot after beating Coyotes in regulation

Jets rally beat Coyotes in regulation West wild-card race NHL
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It’s too early to know if the Coyotes squandering a 2-0 lead to lose to the Jets — in regulation — will count as a “defining” moment of Arizona’s crucial 2019-20 season. As of Monday, March 9, it certainly seems like a big game, though.

Nick Schmaltz scored both of the game’s opening goals late in the first period, sending the Coyotes into the intermission on a high note.

Nikolaj Ehlers served as the biggest catalyst in turning that game around from there. To start, he scored Winnipeg’s first goal, then assisted on the tying 2-2 tally late in the second.

Ehlers then supplied the primary assist for the game-winner, which was Cody Eakin’s first goal as a Jet. An empty-netter iced a significant 4-2 win for the Jets in front of an appreciative crowd in Winnipeg.

Standings impact of Jets beating Coyotes in regulation

With that result, the Jets soared to the West’s top wild-card spot, while the Coyotes allowed a vital opportunity to slip through their fingers/paws.

Take a look at the standings, including the Stars as the not-so-far removed third seed of the Central Division:

West wildcard after Jets beat Coyotes in regulation

OK, it’s important to note that the Stars probably are pretty safe, considering games in hand. (Also, the Oilers are in action against the Golden Knights on Monday, so that portion of the standings will change.)

This remains an agonizing defeat for the Coyotes. They now trail the Jets by four points with both having 12 games left on their schedules, while the teams in front of Arizona hold a game or two in hand and have 2-3 more standings points.

Imagining what could have been if the Coyotes might have secured that lead — or at least salvaged a “charity point” — must be a bitter feeling for Arizona fans.

After improving to 25-16-4 on Jan. 7, the Coyotes have really slipped, going 8-13-4 since then.

With that in mind, if the Coyotes wonder about what could have been, they might need to throw the net open wider than merely dropping this regulation loss to the Jets.

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.

Push for the Playoffs: Hurricanes, Islanders can’t sleep through afternoon tilt

Hurricanes Islanders big afternoon game Push for the Playoffs
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Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2019-20 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.

Athletes (hockey players included) are creatures of habit. Sometimes that makes them almost seem robotic, as you might think after watching Nicklas Lidstrom go through the motions during his playing days.

With those habits in mind, it cannot be easy to throw all of that for a loop and play an afternoon game.

Yet, quite a few teams must shake off the cobwebs/”eye boogers” on Saturday, as the stakes are pretty high. The Predators must do so against the Stars, for example, but the biggest afternoon game involves significant pressure for both teams, as the Hurricanes and Islanders must fight for precious points.

The “slow starting” narrative might sting Carolina, in particular. As Michael Smith of the team website notes, the Hurricanes have allowed opponents to score the first goal in six straight games, and 12 of their last 15.

Even as the Islanders are idling a bit lately, that’s really not something Carolina can afford against such a stingy team.

“We have to be able to play those kinds of games. It was a 0-0 game in the last minute-and-a-half of the period. We made a little gaffe, and it’s in your net,” Rod Brind’Amour said after Carolina’s loss to the Flyers. “You have to bear down all the time. You can’t take little breaths on the ice. We still need to learn that.”

For all we know, Saturday’s afternoon game might come down to the Islanders or Hurricanes enjoying the quicker start. A battle of who ate a better breakfast, perhaps?

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Bruins vs. Islanders
Capitals vs. Blue Jackets
Lightning vs. Maple Leafs
Flyers vs. Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Blues vs. Jets
Golden Knights vs. Canucks
Avalanche vs. Stars
Oilers vs. Flames

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS 

Hurricanes at Islanders, 1 p.m. ET
Capitals at Penguins, 1 p.m. ET
Predators at Stars, 2 p.m. ET
Wild at Kings, 4 p.m. ET
Lightning at Bruins, 7 p.m. ET
Canadiens at Panthers, 7 p.m. ET
Devils at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
Sabres at Flyers, 7 p.m. ET
Blue Jackets at Oilers, 10 p.m. ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

via NHL.com

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Bruins – 100 percent
Lightning – 100
Capitals – 99.8
Flyers – 99.8
Penguins – 98.5
Maple Leafs – 79.4
Islanders – 66.1
Hurricanes 54.7
Blue Jackets – 38.2
Rangers – 33.2
Panthers – 28.3
Canadiens – 1.8
Sabres – 0.2
Senators – 0
Devils – 0
Red Wings – OUT

WESTERN CONFERENCE

via NHL.com

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Blues – 100 percent
Avalanche – 100
Stars – 98.9
Golden Knights – 94
Oilers – 93.2
Flames – 75.2
Canucks – 72.7
Wild – 60.3
Jets – 38.4
Predators – 34.6
Coyotes – 27.2
Blackhawks 5.5
Ducks – 0
Sharks – 0
Kings – 0

THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE

Red Wings – 18.5 percent
Kings – 13.5 percent
Senators – 11. 5 percent
Senators – 9.5 percent*
Ducks – 8.5 percent
Devils – 7.5 percent
Sabres – 6.5 percent
Canadiens – 6 percent
Blackhawks – 5 percent
Devils – 3.5 percent**
Jets – 3 percent
Predators – 2.5 percent
Panthers – 2 percent
Rangers – 1.5 percent
Hurricanes – 1 percent

(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)

ART ROSS RACE

Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 110 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 95 points
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 93 points
Artemi Panarin, Rangers – 93 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 90 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

David Pastrnak, Bruins – 47 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 47 goals
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 43 goals
Mika Zibanejad, Rangers – 38 goals

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.

Push for the Playoffs: Western Conference Wild Card picture still not clear

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2019-20 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 one of the top three teams in either Western Conference division, you have a little bit of breathing room between yourself and those chasing you down. But if you’re in the Wild Card race, you have no such luxury.

The battle for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference are going to go down to the wire. Heading into tonight’s action, the Minnesota Wild (75 points) and Vancouver Canucks (74 points) are the final two playoff teams. But when they look in the rear-view mirror, they notice that three other teams are breathing down their neck.

The Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Arizona Coyotes all have 74 points. In Nashville’s case, they have the same amount of regulation wins as Vancouver, but they have one fewer regulation/overtime win. For Winnipeg, they have one more regulation win than the Canucks, but they’ve played two more games. And for Arizona, they have the same number of regulation wins as Vancouver, but they have three fewer regulation/overtime victories.

There really isn’t much separating these five teams. The reality is, three of them will be watching the postseason from home.

The Wild are playing well. They’ve made a late charge up the standings and they’ve won seven of their last 10 contests. The rest of those teams are going through some ups and downs right now.

Vancouver, Nashville, Winnipeg and Arizona all four or five wins over their last 10 contests. That’s relatively mediocre considering their playoff dreams are still alive.

Who will come out on top? We’ll find out in one month!

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Bruins vs. Islanders
Capitals vs. Blue Jackets
Lightning vs. Maple Leafs
Flyers vs. Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Blues vs. Canucks
Golden Knights vs. Wild
Avalanche vs. Stars
Oilers vs. Flames

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS 
Blues vs. Devils, 7 p.m. ET
Blackhawks vs. Red Wings, 7:30 p.m. ET
Golden Knights vs. Jets, 8 p.m. ET
Coyotes vs. Flames, 9 p.m. ET
Avalanche vs. Canucks, 10 p.m. ET
Maple Leafs vs. Ducks, 10 p.m. ET

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Bruins – 100 percent
Lightning – 100
Capitals – 99.9
Flyers – 99.8
Penguins – 98.7
Maple Leafs – 85.9
Islanders – 67.8
Hurricanes 57.5
Blue Jackets – 36.7
Rangers – 33.7
Panthers – 23.9
Canadiens – 1.1
Sabres – 0
Senators – 0
Devils – 0
Red Wings – OUT

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Blues – 100 percent
Avalanche – 100
Stars – 99.3
Golden Knights – 96.6
Oilers – 94.4
Flames – 69.2
Canucks – 65.9
Wild – 58.2
Coyotes – 50.1
Predators – 34.8
Jets – 28.9
Blackhawks 12.6
Ducks – 0
Sharks – 0
Kings – 0

THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Red Wings – 18.5 percent
Kings – 13.5 percent
Senators – 11. 5 percent
Ducks – 9.5 percent
Senators – 8.5 percent*
Devils – 7.5 percent
Sabres – 6.5 percent
Canadiens – 6 percent
Blackhawks – 5 percent
Devils – 3.5 percent**
Jets – 3 percent
Predators – 2.5 percent
Panthers – 2 percent
Rangers – 1.5 percent
Hurricanes – 1 percent

(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)

ART ROSS RACE
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 110 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 95 points
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 93 points
Artemi Panarin, Rangers – 93 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 88 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 47 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 47 goals
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 46 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 43 goals
Mika Zibanejad, Rangers – 38 goals

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Push for the Playoffs: Bruins won’t make it easy for Panthers to rebound

Panthers Push for the Playoffs vs. Bruins
Getty Images

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2019-20 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.

The Florida Panthers experienced a February they’d like to forget, even looking past the baffling Vincent Trocheck trade. The Panthers simply need to do better if they hope to avoid another unsuccessful push for the playoffs.

Since Feb. 1, the Panthers have squandered many opportunities to fight off the Maple Leafs or secure a wild-card spot, going 5-10-2. The schedule hasn’t always been easy, but respite might not come anytime soon, what with Thursday’s opponent being the formidable Bruins.

There’s talent on this Panthers, team, though. With that in mind, it makes sense that they’re focusing on execution. Erik Haula beamed that “I think you’re going to see a different team on Thursday” following a recent practice, while Joel Quenneville emphasized attention to detail.

“We’ve got to fine-tune our game,” Quenneville said. “The last couple games we got really loose in our own end, and I think our overall game’s got to be tightened, assured and [we’ve got to have] a lot of trust in how we play without the puck. Defensively, we’ve got to be predictable and accountable.”

Whether the Panthers need big changes or minor tweaks, the point is clear: time is running out for the Panthers to make their push for a spot in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Bruins vs. Islanders
Capitals vs. Blue Jackets
Lightning vs. Maple Leafs
Flyers vs. Penguins

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Blues vs. Jets
Golden Knights vs. Canucks
Avalanche vs. Stars
Oilers vs. Flames

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS

Penguins at Sabres, 7 p.m. ET
Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET
Capitals at Rangers, 7 p.m. ET
Bruins at Panthers, 7 p.m. ET
Hurricanes at Flyers, 7 p.m. ET (Watch live on NBCSN)
Islanders at Senators, 7:30 p.m. ET
Stars at Predators, 8 p.m. ET
Oilers at Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. ET
Wild at Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET
Maple Leafs at Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET

Push for the Playoffs East Thursday

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)

Bruins: 100 percent
Lightning: 100
Capitals: 99.8
Flyers: 99.1
Penguins: 96.8
Maple Leafs: 85.4
Islanders: 74.6
Hurricanes: 63.7
Blue Jackets: 33
Panthers: 23.6
Rangers: 22.2
Canadiens: 1.6
Sabres: 0.2
Devils: 0
Senators: 0
Red Wings: out

Push for the Playoffs West Thursday

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (Via Hockey Reference)

Avalanche: 100 percent
Blues: 100
Stars: 99.8
Oilers: 97.1
Golden Knights: 96.7
Flames: 69.7
Canucks: 65.6
Wild: 52.2
Coyotes: 45.1
Jets: 34.7
Predators: 29.3
Blackhawks: 9.6
Sharks: 0.2
Ducks: 0
Kings: 0

THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE

Red Wings – 18.5 percent
Kings – 13.5 percent
Senators – 11. 5 percent
Ducks – 9.5 percent
Senators – 8.5 percent*
Devils – 7.5 percent
Sabres – 6.5 percent
Blackhawks– 6 percent
Canadiens – 5 percent
Devils – 3.5 percent**
Jets – 3 percent
Predators – 2.5 percent
Panthers – 2 percent
Rangers – 1.5 percent
Blue Jackets – 1 percent

(* SJ’s 2020 first-round pick owned by OTT)
(** ARZ’s lottery-protected 2020 first-round pick owned by NJ. If top three, moves to 2021)

ART ROSS RACE

Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 108 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 95 points
David Pastrnak, Bruins – 92 points
Artemi Panarin, Rangers – 90 points
Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 88 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

David Pastrnak, Bruins – 47 goals
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 46 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 45 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 43 goals
Sebastian Aho, Hurricanes – 36 goals

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.