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Stanley Cup Playoff Buzz: Six first-round matchups undecided

First place in Central up for grabs on final day; Lightning try to tie wins record

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2019 NHL postseason. Today is the final day of the regular season and though all 16 berths have been clinched, six of the eight first-round matchups have 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

 

CENTRAL DIVISION TITLE RACE SCENARIOS

The Nashville Predators (currently C1) will clinch the Central Division:

* If they defeat the Chicago Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, NBCSCH, NHL.TV) in any fashion

OR

* If they get one point against Chicago AND BOTH the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues lose in any fashion

OR

* If BOTH Winnipeg and St. Louis lose in regulation

 

The Winnipeg Jets (currently C2) will clinch the Central Division:

* If they defeat the Arizona Coyotes (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, CITY, SNW, FS-A PLUS, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND Nashville loses to Chicago in any fashion

OR

* If they get one point against Arizona AND BOTH of the following occur:

(1) Nashville loses to Chicago in regulation

(2) St. Louis loses to the Vancouver Canucks in any fashion

 

The St. Louis Blues (currently C3) will clinch the Central Division:

* If they defeat Vancouver (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, FS-MW, SNP, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND BOTH Nashville and Winnipeg lose in any fashion

OR

* If they get one point against Vancouver AND BOTH Nashville and Winnipeg lose in regulation

 

OTHER WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF RACE SCENARIOS

The Dallas Stars (currently WC1) will clinch the 1st Wild Card in the Western Conference:

* If they get at least one point against the Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-N, NHL.TV)

OR

* If the Colorado Avalanche lose to the San Jose Sharks in any fashion

 

The Colorado Avalanche (currently WC2) will move up to the 1st Wild Card in the Western Conference:

* If they defeat San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCA+, ALT, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND Dallas loses to Minnesota in regulation

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF RACE SCENARIOS

The New York Islanders (currently M2) will clinch second place in the Metropolitan Division and home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round:

* If they get at least one point against the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, MSG+, NHL.TV) OR if the Pittsburgh Penguins lose to the New York Rangers in any fashion

 

The Pittsburgh Penguins (currently M3) will move up to second place in the Metropolitan Division and home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round:

* If they defeat the Rangers (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, MSG, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the Islanders lose to Washington in regulation

 

The Carolina Hurricanes (currently WC1) will move up to third place in the Metropolitan Division:

* If they defeat the Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; NBCSP, FS-CR, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND Pittsburgh loses to the Rangers in regulation

 

The Columbus Blue Jackets (currently WC2) will move up to the 1st Wild Card in the Eastern Conference:

* If they defeat the Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET; SN360, CITY, TVAS2, FS-O, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND Carolina loses to Philadelphia in any fashion

OR

* If they get one point against Ottawa AND Carolina loses to Philadelphia in regulation

 

If playoffs started Saturday

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

Eastern Conference

(1A) Tampa Bay Lightning vs. (WC2) Columbus Blue Jackets

(1M) Washington Capitals vs. (WC1) Carolina Hurricanes  

(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) Nashville Predators vs. (WC1) Dallas Stars 

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

(2C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (3C) St. Louis Blues  

 

On tap 

The final day of the regular season is here, and six of the eight first-round matchups have yet to be determined. There are 15 games on the schedule Saturday, and nine of them will impact those matchups and one will see a team trying to make NHL history: 

Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins (1 p.m. ET; SN360, NESN, SUN, NHL.TV): The Lightning have a chance to get their 62nd win and match the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most victories in a single season. The Bruins know they will finish second in the Atlantic Division and play the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Vancouver Canucks at St. Louis Blues (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, FS-MW, SNP, NHL.TV): The Blues can cap their meteoric rise from last in the NHL standings in early January to first in the Central Division. They are tied for second with the Winnipeg Jets, one point behind the first-place Nashville Predators.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET; SN360, CITY, TVAS2, FS-O, NHL.TV): The Blue Jackets are one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the first wild card in the East. Columbus holds the regulation/overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker.  

Carolina Hurricanes at Philadelphia Flyers (7 p.m. ET; NBCSP, FS-CR, NHL.TV): The Hurricanes can end up anywhere from third in the Metropolitan Division to the second wild card. They are two points behind the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the division, but hold the ROW tiebreaker, 43-42. They have a one-point lead on the Blue Jackets for the first wild card, but the Blue Jackets hold the ROW tiebreaker, 44-43.

New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET; ATTSN-PT, MSG, NHL.TV): The Penguins are third in the Metropolitan, two points behind the second-place New York Islanders. If the Penguins win in regulation or overtime and the Islanders lose in regulation, Pittsburgh would finish second in the division and gain home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round by winning the ROW tiebreaker. If the teams are even in the ROW tiebreaker by virtue of the Penguins winning in a shootout and the Islanders losing in regulation, the second tiebreaker is a tie since the season series ended 2-1-1 for each team. However, Pittsburgh wins the third tiebreaker, which is regular-season goal differential. The Penguins are two points ahead of the Hurricanes, who are fourth in the division and hold the first wild card in the East. Carolina, which has a 43-42 ROW advantage, would finish third in the division and drop Pittsburgh to the first wild card with a win of any kind and a Penguins regulation loss.

New York Islanders at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, MSG+, NHL.TV): The Islanders have a two-point lead on the Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division and can clinch home-ice advantage in first round of the playoffs with one point. The Capitals have clinched first place in the Metropolitan.

Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, NBCSCH, NHL.TV): The Predators lead the Jets and Blues by one point atop the Central Division. The Jets hold the ROW tiebreaker over the Predators and Blues. 

Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-N, NHL.TV): The Stars have a one-point lead on the Colorado Avalanche for the first wild card from the Western Conference and hold the ROW tiebreaker. They need one point or a Colorado loss of any kind to get the first wild card.  

Winnipeg Jets at Arizona Coyotes (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, CITY, SNW, FS-A PLUS, NHL.TV): The Jets are tied with the Blues for second in the Central Division, one point behind the Predators. If the Jets finish tied with Predators, or in a three-way tie, they would win the division because they hold the ROW tiebreaker. 

Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCA+, ALT, NHL.TV): The Avalanche are one point behind the Stars for the first wild card from the West. Colorado needs a win of any kind and a Dallas regulation loss to get the first wild card. The Sharks will finish second in the Pacific Division and play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference First Round.

 

Thought of the day

As the final day of the regular season begins, all 16 berths for the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been claimed. But in the Central, the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues are battling for first place in the division. 

The Predators are in first place, one point ahead of the Jets and Blues. The Predators host the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, NBCSCH, NHL.TV), the Jets play the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena (10 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, CITY, SNW, FS-A, PLUS) and the Blues host the Vancouver Canucks (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, FS-MW, SNP, NHL.TV).

If the Predators defeat the Blackhawks, they'll win the Central title for the second consecutive season. If the Jets win and the Predators lose, the title is theirs; the Jets can also win the Central if they get a point against the Coyotes, the Predators lose in regulation and the Blues lose in any fashion.

The Blues can win the Central if they defeat the Canucks and both the Predators and Jets lose in any fashion, or if they get a point and the Predators and Jets lose in regulation.

If St. Louis finishes first in the Central, it would be a tremendous turnaround; the Blues were 15-18-4 and last in the League on Jan. 2. Since then, the Blues have gone 29-10-5.

"That just tells you how tight the league is, right?" St. Louis forward Brayden Schenn said before the Blues lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Blackhawks at United Center on Wednesday. "Anything can happen at any time."

NHL.com staff writer Tracey Myers

 

Need to know

New York Islanders forward Valtteri Filppula will play against the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Filppula, who has missed the past eight games with an upper-body injury, has 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists) in 71 games.

Dallas Stars goaltender Ben Bishop is expected to start against the Minnesota Wild. Bishop, who did not travel to Chicago when the Stars lost to the Blackhawks 6-1 on Friday, has not started since suffering a lower-body injury March 27. He is 26-15-2 with a 2.03 goals-against average and .933 save percentage this season. 

"Hockey Night in Canada" broadcaster Bob Cole will call the final play-by-play of his career when the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Cole called his first NHL game on CBC radio on April 24, 1969 and moved to television the following year.

 

About last night

Two of the three games on the schedule Friday had playoff implications: 

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, New York Rangers 2 (SO): Needing two points to clinch the final berth in the Eastern Conference, the Blue Jackets made it interesting, allowing the Rangers to score the tying goal with seven seconds left in regulation before winning in a shootout. The Blue Jackets trail the Carolina Hurricanes by one point for the first wild card in the East. 

Chicago Blackhawks 6, Dallas Stars 1: The Stars missed a chance to lock up the first wild card in the West and head into the final day of the season with a one-point lead the Colorado Avalanche for that spot. The Stars hold the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker, so one point on Saturday will get them the first wild card.

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