NHL Playoff Push: Maple Leafs could clinch with win over Capitals

Auston Matthews set another Leafs rookie record, Detroit got help from an unlikely source and Montreal clinched the Atlantic Division.

We’re in the thick of it now. With just six days remaining in the regular season, four Eastern Conference teams are battling for three available spots while the remaining teams continue to jockey for position. A 13-game schedule tonight means plenty of potential moving and shaking in the standings.

The Toronto Maple Leafs can clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. On the flipside, if Washington wins they can clinch the Presidents’ Trophy for the second season in a row.

In the West, we know which eight teams are playoff bound but the Pacific Division and wild card seeding can change dramatically in the next few days.

Let’s take a closer look at where things stand in the playoff race.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

If the season ended today…

(M1) vs. (WC2)

(A1) vs. (WC1)

(M2) vs. (M3)

(A2) vs. (A3)

Here’s what the Eastern Conference standings look like today:

What’d I miss?

The Montreal Canadiens clinched a division title for the 19th time since 1967 after beating the Panthers 4-1 to finish off their Florida road trip. Montreal has won five straight and has three more games to fine-tune before a first-round matchup against the New York Rangers.

Toronto has struggled mightily in Buffalo in recent years but it won two of its three visits to the KeyBank Center this season. The Leafs outclassed the Sabres from top to bottom in a 4-2 victory Monday, outshooting them 45-22 and scoring thrice in a 43-second span in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators, despite having a depleted roster, overcame a two-goal deficit in the third period against the Red Wings to force overtime and earn a valuable point to temporarily move into third in the Atlantic. They’re sitting at 92 points and have a game in hand on the Bruins, who are also sitting at 92.

Fun fact

If the Senators hold on over their final four games and get into the playoffs they’ll have their captain to thank.

Tuesday’s game to watch:

Tampa Bay
Lightning
0
Boston
Bruins
4
FINAL
It’s make or break time for the Lightning. They need to beat the Bruins to keep pace and finishing the job in 60 minutes is vital. If the Bruins earn a regulation win, the Lightning might as well start booking tee times because they will be all but mathematically eliminated. Tampa is essentially in Game 7 mode and Boston has won five in a row, so fans can expect this game to resemble playoff hockey. If the Bruins win in regulation they’ll clinch a playoff berth. You can watch the game on Sportsnet with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

If the season ended today…

(C1) vs. (WC2)

(P1) vs. (WC1)

(C2) vs. (C3)

(P2) vs. (P3)

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Here’s what the Western Conference standings look like today:

What’d I miss?

Absolutely nothing. There were three games Monday featuring six Eastern Conference teams so the West standings look like they did following Sunday’s games.

Fun fact

Connor McDavid has 94 points and a seven-point cushion in the Art Ross Trophy race as the NHL’s top scorer. Unless Patrick Kane (87), Brad Marchand (85), Sidney Crosby (84) or Nicklas Backstrom (84) put up remarkable numbers in their final few games, McDavid will become the first member of the Edmonton Oilers to lead the league in scoring since Wayne Gretzky in 1987. Gretzky put up 62 goals and 121 assists for 183 points in 79 games that season—the sixth-highest single-season point total of his NHL career.

Tuesday’s game to watch:

Calgary
Flames
1
Anaheim
Ducks
3
FINAL
The Ducks haven’t lost in regulation in 11 games and they’ll need to remain hot if they wish to stay atop the Pacific. The Oilers are just two points back of the Ducks with a game in hand. Tonight’s Ducks-Flames game is a possible preview of a first-round matchup. It could either be a P1-vs.-WC 1 scenario like it stands currently, or a P2-vs.-P3 if the Oilers leapfrog the Ducks and the Flames pass the slumping Sharks. Anaheim has beaten Calgary in three of four meetings this season and edged them 4-3 on Sunday.

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