Breaking down NHL playoff battles to watch during stretch run

Jeff Marek is joined by Glenn Healy, Ryan Whitney, Doug Maclean and Colby Armstrong to recap the 2018 NHL trade deadline.

With the madness of NHL trade deadline day behind us, it’s time to shift our focus to the home stretch as several teams vie to either improve their playoff seeding or simply qualify for the post-season.

The Flyers have caught fire in a Metropolitan Division that is more up for grabs than any other grouping in the NHL. Both the Tampa Bay and Boston made big moves at the deadline, but there’s no guarantee that will allow either squad to finish ahead of the Maple Leafs.

While Nashville (Central) and Vegas (Pacific) figure to be your division winners out West, seven teams — depending on where you want to draw your line — are in a death struggle to make the playoffs, including the Flames.

To get a better handle on things, we closely examined the remaining schedule for a bunch of teams locked in big-time battles, complete with the combined winning percentage of the clubs they still have to face.

Eastern Conference Playoff Battle

Atlantic
Tampa Bay Lightning

Present position: 1st, 89 points
Games remaining: 19
Home games: 13
Road games: 6
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .537

Of note: The Bolts hold three games in hand over second-place Toronto and have an eight-game home stand from March 3 to 20. Tampa has one of the cushier remaining schedules.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Present position: 2nd, 85 points
Games remaining: 16
Home games: 9
Road games: 7
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .530

Of note: The Leafs will play lowly Buffalo three times and Montreal twice, with four of those five contests in Toronto. Is that taking candy from a baby or should they be worried some blood rivals will up their game in the name of playing spoiler? No club on this list has an easier schedule based on the records of their remaining foes.

Boston Bruins

Present position: 3rd, 84 points
Games remaining: 21
Home games: 10
Road games: 11
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .570

Of note: The Florida Panthers are the only team to have played fewer games than the Bruins, so Boston will be busy the rest of the way. Only one time between now and the end of the season does Boston have more than a single day off between outings.

Metropolitan
Washington Capitals

Present position: 1st, 79 points
Games remaining: 18
Home games: 8
Road games: 10
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .566

Of note: The Capitals still have a three-game California swing in front of them, which is always a tough go.

Philadelphia Flyers

Present position: 2nd, 78 points
Games remaining: 19
Home games: 10
Road games: 9
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .579

Of note: Philly has come out of nowhere to challenge for the division lead and have two games remaining against their hated Pennsylvania rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Playoff preview? Yes, please!

Pittsburgh Penguins

Present position: 3rd, 76 points
Games remaining: 18
Home games: 9
Road games: 9
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .549

Of note: The Penguins will have two breaks of at least three days off in April, just before the second season starts.

Western Conference Wild Card
San Jose Sharks

Present position: 2nd in Pacific, 77 points
Games remaining: 18
Home games: 11
Road games: 7
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .571

Of note: The Sharks only have a handful of games outside the Pacific time zone left and zero in the Eastern time zone.

Los Angeles Kings

Present position: 3rd in Pacific, 75 points
Games remaining: 18
Home games: 12
Road games: 6
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .542

Of note: Yes, the Kings have twice as many home contests as roadies left, but their domestic winning percentage is .569 compared to .600 in enemy territory.

Dallas Stars

Present position: 1st wild card, 76 points (Three points back of 3rd in Central)
Games remaining: 19
Home games: 8
Road games: 11
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .585

Of note: The Stars have the toughest remaining schedule of any team on this list. Beginning March 6, Dallas plays 11 of its final 16 contests away from home. The Stars also finish the season by visiting the three California teams, who could all be fighting tooth and nail for home-ice advantage or a playoff spot at that point.

Anaheim Ducks

Present position: 2nd wild card, 74 points (One point back of 3rd in Pacific)
Games remaining: 18
Home games: 11
Road games: 7
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .552

Of note: The Ducks, presently in the second wild-card position, have two games left with Dallas, which current occupies the first wild-card entry.

Senior Writer Ryan Dixon and NHL Editor Rory Boylen always give it 110%, but never rely on clichés when it comes to podcasting. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun and a varied group of hockey voices to cover Canada’s most beloved game.

Calgary Flames

Present position: 73 points (One point back of wild card, two back of 3rd in Pacific)
Games remaining: 18
Home games: 9
Road games: 9
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .533

Of note: Like the Kings, Calgary is better away from home than in its own rink. The Flames are exactly .500 at the Saddledome and .641 everywhere else. Calgary has two games left against the Sharks, one versus L.A. and another against Anaheim, all Pacific rivals jockeying for position. Overall, the Flames have one of the easier remaining schedules in the NHL.

St. Louis Blues

Present position: 72 points (Two points back of wild card, seven back of 3rd in Central)
Games remaining: 18
Home games: 8
Road games: 10
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .551

Of note: The Blues — who can’t win under any circumstance right now — will play Friday-Saturday back-to-back games on the final three weekends of the season, and only the first of those six contests is a home game.

Colorado Avalanche

Present position: 71 points (Three points back of wild card, eight back of 3rd in Central)
Games remaining: 20
Home games: 11
Road games: 9
Opponents’ combined winning percentage: .580

Of note: Three of Colorado’s remaining contests are against the best teams in the West: two versus Vegas and one in Nashville.

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