As the NHL playoffs approach, the Eastern Conference picture still has a lot left to figure out
The NHL playoffs are just around the corner. There are less than 20 games remaining in the 2017-18 season. Despite the number of games left, the Eastern Conference picture still needs to be filled in.
For a while, it appeared the Metropolitan Division would get both of the wild-card spots. But the red-hot Florida Panthers are looking to fight their way into the postseason. The recent decline of the New York Islanders has opened the door for an exciting playoff race.
As of March 6, the current Eastern Conference playoff standings look like this.
Metropolitan Division Leaders
Washington Capitals (81 points)
Pittsburgh Penguins (80 points)
Philadelphia Flyers (79 points)
Atlantic Division Leaders
Tampa Bay Lightning (94 points)
Boston Bruins (88 points)
Toronto Maple Leafs (85 points)
New Jersey Devils (74 points)
If you have read my preview of the Western Conference, do you see what I mean by the Eastern Conference is pretty much locked up? Yes, there is still a month and a half left of hockey to be played. But look at the point totals on these teams. One team is already in the 90’s and a favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Four other teams are in the 80’s.
Unfortunately for the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes, there’s a strong chance they’ll be eliminated from contention before the month ends. Florida currently sits at 70 points on the season. They’re 15 points behind Toronto. However, the Panthers are very much alive in the wild card hunt since they have three games in hand over the Blue Jackets and Devils.
Carolina, who has a slightly higher fighter’s chance, has 69 points on the year. Luckily, they’re only two points behind Columbus, who also is in their same division. The Hurricanes have not made the postseason since the 2008-09 season. Barring a collapse, this streak will continue.
If you’re the fan that believes seeding matters, you’ll be entertained by the fight going on in the Metropolitan Division. With only three points separating Washington from Pittsburgh, it’ll be interesting to see the final result.
It doesn’t seem either of the top three from the Metro is going to fall to a wild card spot. However, if that were to happen, who would give their spot up to the Devils?
I wish the scenarios were different that made the Eastern Conference playoff race juicier. If this were fictional reality-television, I could see this being low in ratings. The Panthers might make things interesting, but it doesn’t seem likely. Luckily it’s one of the greatest forms of reality TV there is, live sports! We’ll check back in a week or two with any updates worth noting.