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Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz: Avalanche try to tighten grip on wild-card spot

Capitals can clinch Metropolitan; Maple Leafs could secure third straight berth @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2019 NHL postseason. There are six days left in the regular season and though several berths have been clinched there are several races yet to be decided.

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

Stanley Cup Playoff clinching scenarios

The Washington Capitals will clinch the Metropolitan Division if they defeat the Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-F, NBCSWA, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the New York Islanders lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; MSG+ 2, SNO, NHL.TV) in regulation.

The Maple Leafs will clinch a playoff berth if they get at least one point against the Islanders.


On Tap

There are eight games on the schedule Monday, seven with playoff implications.

Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, FS-F, NBCSWA, NHL.TV): The Capitals, who have a three-point lead on the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division, will clinch the division with a win of any kind against the Panthers and an Islanders loss in regulation to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Panthers have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Islanders (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, 2, SNO, NHL.TV): The Islanders are second in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the Washington Capitals for first place and two points ahead of the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins. Each has three games to play. The Maple Leafs are third in the Atlantic Division and have four games to play. They trail the second-place Boston Bruins by six points and have a game in hand. Toronto is five points ahead of the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens and has a game in hand. The Maple Leafs can clinch a playoff berth with a point against the Islanders.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS, TSN5, SUN, NHL.TV): The Lightning can become the third NHL team to win 60 games in a season with a victory against the Senators. The 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings won 62 games and the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens won 60. The Senators are eliminated from playoff contention.

Colorado Avalanche at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV): The Avalanche are 6-0-1 in their past seven games and hold the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, one point ahead of the Arizona Coyotes and four points ahead of the Minnesota Wild with a game in hand on each team. Colorado trails the Dallas Stars for the first wild card by four points and has a game in hand on the Stars. The Blues are third in the Central Division, two points behind the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators and three points ahead of the Stars. St. Louis and Winnipeg have four games to play, Nashville and Dallas three.

Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET; WGN, TSN3, NHL.TV): The Jets hold first place in the Central Division, tied in points with the Nashville Predators but having played one fewer game. The Blackhawks have four games remaining and trail the Avalanche by six points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Chicago has three teams to pass to reach the playoff spot.

Edmonton Oilers at Vegas Golden Knights (10 p.m. ET; SN1, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV): The Golden Knights are locked into third place in the Pacific Division with three games to play and will face the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference First Round. The Oilers have four games to play and trail the Avalanche by eight points for the second wild card into the playoffs from the West.

Calgary Flames at Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET; PRIME, SNW, NHL.TV): The Flames clinched first place in the Pacific Division and Western Conference with their 5-3 win at the San Jose Sharks on Sunday and will face the second wild card in the Western Conference First Round. The Kings have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Thought of the day

They aren't out of the woods yet, but the Colorado Avalanche have shown plenty of resolve to maintain their hold on the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

The Avalanche (36-29-13) are 6-0-1 in their past seven games and have a one-point lead on the Arizona Coyotes and a four-point lead on the Minnesota Wild for the final playoff spot in the conference. Colorado has four games to play; the Coyotes and Wild three.

Colorado has fashioned the streak despite two critical injuries. Captain Gabriel Landeskog missed nine games with a lower-body injury between March 9-27. He returned to the lineup for a critical 3-2 shootout win against the Coyotes on Friday. He played 22:15, had one assist and has 70 points (33 goals, 37 assists) in 69 games this season.

Forward Mikko Rantanen, who has 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) in 74 games, remains out for the Avalanche. He has missed four games with an undisclosed injury.

Goalie Philipp Grubauer has done more than his share to help pick up the slack.

Grubauer has started all seven games during Colorado's point streak. His six wins are the most in the NHL since March 17, and he has a goals-against average of 1.55 and a save percentage of .957 during the past seven games. He has faced an average of 36.9 shots per game during the streak.

Maintaining their momentum without Landeskog and Rantanen, and with Grubauer's excellence has been impressive, but the Avalanche need even more to reach the playoffs for the second straight season.

The final week of the regular season presents its challenges.

After they play at the St. Louis Blues on Monday, the Avalanche play on back-to-back days with a home game against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. Colorado closes the regular season at home against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and then at the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. staff writer Tim Campbell 


If playoffs started Monday

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

Eastern Conference

(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (WC2) Carolina Hurricanes 

(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Columbus Blue Jackets  

(2A) Boston Bruins vs. (3A) Toronto Maple Leafs

(2M) New York Islanders vs. (3M) Pittsburgh Penguins   

Western Conference

(1P) Calgary Flames vs. (WC2) Colorado Avalanche

(1C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (WC1) Dallas Stars

(2P) San Jose Sharks vs. (3P) Vegas Golden Knights

(2C) Nashville Predators vs. (3C) St. Louis Blues


About last night

Five of the six of games on the schedule Sunday had playoff implications:

Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Carolina Hurricanes 1: The Hurricanes fell to the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are one point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. All three teams have three games remaining. The Penguins moved within two points of the New York Islanders for second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Arizona Coyotes 4, Minnesota Wild 0: The Coyotes moved within one point of the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card from the West, while the Wild remained four points out. The Coyotes and Wild each have played one more game than Colorado.

Video: Kuemper, Archibald fuel Coyotes to 4-0 victory

Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Buffalo Sabres 0: The Blue Jackets moved into the first wild card from the East, passing the Hurricanes. The Blue Jackets lead the Hurricanes by one point with three games remaining. They are three points behind the Penguins for third in the Metropolitan.

Detroit Red Wings 6, Boston Bruins 3: The Bruins missed a chance to build their lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the first round. The Bruins lead the Maple Leafs by six points; Boston has three games remaining while Toronto has four.

Calgary Flames 5, San Jose Sharks 3: The Flames, who didn't make the playoffs last season, clinched first place in the Western Conference and the Pacific Division and will play the second wild card in the first round of the playoffs. The Sharks will finish second in the Pacific and will have home-ice advantage for their Western Conference First Round against the third-place Vegas Golden Knights.

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