NHL Eastern Conference Wild Card: Who’s in and Who’s Out?
The Wild Card race in the Eastern Conference is tight-knit right now in the NHL. There are a few viable teams hoping to find their way into the two spots, and with around ten games left for every team, the points matter now more than ever.
The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins currently hold the two spots, but the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitols, and Ottawa Senators are all within six points of them. Out of these five teams, who’s still in the race and who’s in danger of falling out or not making it at all? Let’s break it down team by team.
The NHL wild card race in the east is down to just a few teams.
New York Islanders:
The New York Islanders are in a pretty safe spot right now. They’re three points ahead of Pittsburgh and four points ahead of Florida with one more game played. Riding off a 3-game win streak and excellent goaltending from Ilya Sorokin, the Isles are in prime position to make the playoffs. As good as Sorokin can be, he will be a major asset for New York if they are serious about a playoff run.
The Penguins are holding on by a thread in this race. The Panthers are only one point behind them, and they’ve played the same number of games. The story of this season for the Penguins has been their constant winning and losing streaks. Pittsburgh is going to have to find some consistency in these last 10 games if they want to keep their spot.
Luckily for Pittsburgh, tomorrow’s contest against the Capitols is the last game against an opponent close to them in the standings. As long as they win or get a point against Washington and don’t fall apart the rest of the way, they have a good chance. That is unless Florida catches them.
Out of all the teams on the outside looking in that could knock Pittsburgh out for that last spot, Florida has to be the most likely. Although out of their final 10 games, six of them are against playoff teams or teams that are trying to pass them. This could be beneficial for them, as playing games against legitimate competition in a playoff race is better than playing in easier games with teams tanking for a draft pick.
If the Capitals want to stay in this race, anything but a regulation win against Pittsburgh could be soul-crushing. Washington is currently four points behind Pittsburgh and three points behind Florida, making it not an ideal scenario to make up those points in 10 games. They’ll need some help, but let’s not forget they have Alex Ovechkin, who broke the record for the most 40-goal seasons by a single player not long ago.
The playoff race in the East is going to come down to the wire. That’s what makes hockey so great. Hopefully, we see some great hockey that carries into the playoffs.