The Stanley Cup Playoffs picture became clearer Saturday, but there are still a few things to be decided on the final day of the regular season. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a chance to wrap up home-ice advantage for their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Montreal Canadiens, while either the Colorado Avalanche or the St. Louis Blues will win the Central Division and a Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild.
Here are the remaining scenarios:
The Lightning would clinch the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in a first-round matchup against Montreal if they beat the Washington Capitals in any fashion.
The Canadiens (idle) would clinch the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in a first-round matchup against Tampa Bay if the Lightning lose to the Washington Capitals in regulation, overtime or a shootout.
The Avalanche would clinch the Central Division title and play the Wild in the first round if they defeat the Anaheim Ducks in any fashion OR if they lose to the Ducks in overtime or a shootout AND the Blues fail to get two points against the Detroit Red Wings OR if the Blues lose in regulation.
The Blues would clinch the Central Division title and play the Wild in the first round if they defeat the Red Wings in any fashion AND the Avalanche lose to the Ducks in any fashion OR if the Blues lose to the Red Wings in overtime or a shootout AND the Avalanche lose to the Ducks in regulation.
The four playoff pairings in the Eastern Conference are: Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (with home-ice still to be determined) and New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers.
The eight teams in the Western Conference that clinched postseason berths are: St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars. In the West, Anaheim will play Dallas in the first round and San Jose will play Los Angeles. The Central Division winner (either Colorado or St. Louis) will face Minnesota and the second-place finisher in the Central will face Chicago.
As has been the case since 1979-80, 16 teams qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This season, however, the format is a set bracket that is largely division-based with wild cards.
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season record and regardless of division. It is possible for one division in each conference to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends just three.
In the first round, the division winner with the best record in each conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lesser record; the wild-card team with the better record will play the other division winner.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will meet in the first round within the bracket headed by their respective division winners. First-round winners within each bracket play one another in the second round to determine the four participants in the Conference Finals.
Home-ice advantage through the first two rounds goes to the team that placed higher in the regular-season standings. In the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, home-ice advantage goes to the team that had the better regular-season record -- regardless of the teams' final standing in its respective divisions.
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