There are three games on Wednesday’s NHL schedule, and each one has big post-season implications. We’ve even got a potential playoff preview on our hands.
Here’s a look at how the playoff picture looks today and what’s in store for Wednesday night.
Penguins are in
It was only a matter of time before the Pittsburgh Penguins joined the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets by officially booking a playoff spot, and they did that on Tuesday night with a win against the Buffalo Sabres. The defending Stanley Cup champions also passed Columbus in the standings are now just one point behind the Capitals for top spot in the NHL. This is their 11th consecutive post-season berth.
Sidney Crosby continued his hot streak with a stunning defence-splitting goal, his league-leading 41st of the season.
He’s now got 81 points in 2016-17, one shy of Connor McDavid’s total.
If the season ended today…
(M1) vs. (WC2)
(A1) vs. (WC1)
(M2) vs. (M3)
(A2) vs. (A3)
Wednesday’s must-win game in the East: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets
As mentioned above, the top three spots in the Metropolitan Division are now completely locked up, with the New York Rangers sitting firmly in the East’s first wild card spot, but there’s still some room for movement in the Atlantic—especially when it comes to that No. 3 spot. As Sportsnet’s Luke Fox explained on Monday, the Division title race pretty much belongs to the Montreal Canadiens while the Ottawa Senators can get comfortable in the No. 2 spot. But third place? That’s still very much up for grabs, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have an opportunity to move in on Wednesday night with a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Leafs got within one point of Boston with their victory over the Bruins on Monday night, and Marchand and Co. went on to lose another crucial division battle against the Senators on Tuesday.
The other Eastern Conference game features a battle of New York, with the 78-point Islanders needing all the wins they can get as they attempt to grab the final wild card spot.
Here’s what the Eastern Conference standings look like today:
Crosby gained a goal on Wednesday, but lost a tooth against the Sabres. Ouch.
If the season ended today…
(C1) vs. (WC2)
(P1) vs. (WC1)
(C2) vs. (C3)
(P2) vs. (P3)
Wednesday’s must-win Western Conference game
There is just one game going on in the Western Conference on Wednesday night, but boy is it an important one.
The Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks, sitting in second and third respectively, are tied up in the Pacific with 87 points apiece—they even have matching ROWs (35)—and have been part of a three-team dance (also including the 86-point Calgary Flames) for playoff positioning.
As the playoff picture stands right now, the two clubs are lined up to meet in the first round of the playoffs, making Wednesday’s matchup a potential post-season preview.
This will be the fourth of five regular season matchups between the Oilers and Ducks. Anaheim won the first meeting, but Edmonton has claimed the other two—including a 4-0 shutout victory in late January. The team will meet again on April 1.
It’s worth noting that the Flames lost to the Capitals on Tuesday night, giving an extra advantage to the winner of Wednesday’s matchup to break away from the pack—if only for a day.
Here’s what the Western Conference standings look like today:
Exactly how good have the Oilers been this year? You’ll have to look back to their glory days for the best comparison.