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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Golden Knights, Jets can clinch

Blues move into second wild card in West; Devils defeat Lightning again

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2018 NHL postseason. There are 15 days left in the regular season and the races in each conference are wide open.

Here is a look at the NHL Standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.

 

Stanley Cup Playoff clinching scenarios

* The Vegas Golden Knights (idle) will clinch if the Anaheim Ducks lose to the Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET; SN1, SNW, PRIME) in any fashion.

* The Winnipeg Jets will clinch if they defeat the Nashville Predators (7 p.m. ET; SN360, SNE, SNO, SNP, FS-TN) in any fashion OR if they get one point against Nashville AND Anaheim loses to Edmonton in any fashion.

 

What's on tap

There are five games on the schedule Sunday with potential impact on the race for positioning in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins, (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVAS, NHL.TV)-- The Flyers and Penguins each have an opportunity to close the gap on the first-place Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers trail the Capitals by seven points and are also looking to extend their two-point lead over the New Jersey Devils for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Goalie Matt Murray will start for the Penguins, who are five points behind the Capitals, one ahead of the third-place Columbus Blue Jackets and two ahead of the fourth-place Flyers.

Vancouver Canucks at Dallas Stars (7 p.m. ET; SNP, FS-SW, NHL.TV)-- The Stars' chances to make the playoffs are in trouble thanks to a 1-6-3 skid that has them five points behind the St. Louis Blues for the second wild card from the Western Conference. The Canucks have lost eight of nine and are eliminated from postseason contention.

Nashville Predators at Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. ET; SN360, SNE, SNO, SNP, FS-TN, NHL.TV) -- The Jets will clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Predators or if they earn a point and the Anaheim Ducks lose to the Edmonton Oilers. Winnipeg is on a four-game winning streak and six points behind Nashville for first place in the Central Division. However, they will finish the regular season without defenseman Toby Enstrom (lower body), who could be ready for Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round. The Predators are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning with 106 points but hold first place in the League because they've played one fewer game. They have lost two straight games since going 12-1-3 in their previous 16.  

Boston Bruins at Minnesota Wild (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN) -- The Bruins are four points behind the Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division and will likely get Patrice Bergeron back after the center missed the past month with a fractured foot. Goalie Alex Stalock will start for the Wild, who sit third in the Central Division, two points ahead of the fourth-place Colorado Avalanche. A victory at Xcel Energy Center would move Minnesota closer to clinching a playoff berth for the sixth consecutive season. 

Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers (9:30 p.m. ET; SN1, SNW, PRIME, NHL.TV) -- Though the Ducks hold third place in the Pacific Division, the race in the Western Conference remains tight. Their 89 points are tied with the Los Angeles Kings with a game in hand and an outside chance to catch the second-place San Jose Sharks, who they trail by six points. An Oilers win will clinch a playoff berth for the idle Vegas Golden Knights.

 

Need to know

NHL: Connor McDavid is on pace for his second straight 100-point season and could win the Art Ross Trophy as the League's top scorer for the second straight year. Who was the last player to win consecutive scoring titles? That and more in NHL.com's Facts and Figures.

Washington Capitals: Lars Eller is in his second season with the Capitals and is having the best season of his NHL career. Dave Stubbs tells us why.

Video: WSH@NYI: Eller fires home wrist shot from the circle

 

Thought of the day

When the St. Louis Blues traded Paul Stastny to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 26, they were in the throes of a seven-game losing streak (0-6-1).

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong talked about wanting to do what was best for the future. Long term seemed to be the prevailing thought even though the Blues at the time were one point out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Almost a month later, the Blues are very much a present-day factor.

What they've done is what the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars have been unable to do after prolonged slumps: get back on track. The Blues are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and back in the race after a stretch that could have eliminated them. St. Louis and the Los Angeles Kings each have 89 points but the Blues hold the second wild card into the playoffs from the West because they have played one fewer game.

There are many factors behind their revival (the return of Jaden Schwartz for starters) but their captain, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, and his contributions are worth examining.

Pietrangelo was the NHL's First Star for the week ending March 18, when he had nine points (three goals, six assists) in four games. He has 51 points (15 goals, 36 assists) in 71 games this season.

Beyond that, there are his considerable leadership qualities, which are hard to quantify but hugely important at this time of the season. -- Lisa Dillman, NHL.com Staff Writer

Video: STL@CHI: Pietrangelo ties game late with one-timer

 

About last night

Twelve games played Saturday had playoff implications:

St. Louis Blues 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 1 -- The Blues ended the Blue Jackets' 10-game winning streak and won their fifth in a row to take over the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. The Blue Jackets remained in third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins and one ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, who hold the first wild card in the East.

Colorado Avalanche 2, Vegas Golden Knights 1 (SO) -- The Avalanche climbed into the first wild card from the West, one point ahead of the Blues. The Golden Knights, who are first in the Pacific Division, six points ahead of the second-place San Jose Sharks, would have clinched a playoff berth with a win.

Minnesota Wild 4, Nashville Predators 1-- The Wild are 3-0-1 in their past four games and maintained their two-point lead on the Avalanche for third place in the Central Division. The Predators' nine-game road winning streak ended, but they remain first in the Central Division, Western Conference and League standings.

San Jose Sharks 5, Calgary Flames 1-- The Sharks extended their winning streak to seven and moved within six points of the Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific. San Jose also increased its advantage on the third-place Anaheim Ducks to six points. The Flames lost their fifth in a row to drop nine points behind the Blues for the second wild card in the West.

Edmonton Oilers 3, Los Angeles Kings 2 -- A costly loss for the Kings, who dropped from third place in the Pacific to out of a playoff spot. The Kings are tied in points with the third-place Ducks and the Blues, who hold the second wild card from the West, but have played one more game than each team. Edmonton's Connor McDavid scored two goals to take over the NHL lead with 96 points.

New Jersey Devils 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 1 -- In a possible preview of an Eastern Conference First Round series, the Devils maintained their three-point advantage on the Florida Panthers for the second wild card in the East and are 3-0-0 against the Lightning. With five wins in their past seven games, the Devils pulled within two points of the Flyers for the first wild card. The Lightning remained four points ahead of the idle Boston Bruins for first place in the conference and Atlantic Division. The Bruins have played two fewer games.

Florida Panthers 4, Arizona Coyotes 2 -- The Panthers trailed 2-0 after two periods before rallying with four goals in the third to remain three points behind the Devils. Florida has played two fewer games.

Washington Capitals 6, Montreal Canadiens 4-- The Capitals won their third in a row and seventh in eight games to increase their Metropolitan Division lead on the second-place Penguins to five points. Each team has seven games remaining, including a head-to-head matchup in Pittsburgh on April 1.

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Detroit Red Wings 3 -- The Maple Leafs extended their team-record home winning streak to 13 and moved within five points of the Bruins for second place in the Atlantic. Toronto also tied team records with its 45th win (1998-99, 1999-2000, 2003-04) and 26th at home (2005-06).

Carolina Hurricanes 5, Ottawa Senators 2 -- The Hurricanes won for the third time in four games to remain nine points behind the Devils for the second wild card in the East with seven games remaining.

New York Rangers 5, Buffalo Sabres 1 -- The Rangers got two goals and an assist from Jimmy Vesey to remain 12 points behind the Devils for the second wild card in the East with seven games remaining.

Chicago Blackhawks 3, New York Islanders 1 -- The Islanders dropped to 2-9-4 in their past 15 games to fall 14 points behind the Devils for the second wild card in the East with seven games remaining. New York is not mathematically eliminated because it can surpass New Jersey in regulation/overtime wins.

 

If playoffs started Sunday

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Sunday:

Eastern Conference

(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs (WC2) New Jersey Devils 
(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Philadelphia Flyers  
(2M) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3M) Columbus Blue Jackets 
(2A) Boston Bruins vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference

(1C) Nashville Predators vs. (WC2) St. Louis Blues 
(1P) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (WC1) Colorado Avalanche
(2C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (3C) Minnesota Wild
(2P) San Jose Sharks vs. (3P) Anaheim Ducks

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