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Playoff picture: Blackhawks cementing lead in West

Streaking Chicago atop conference, Central Division by seven points

NHL.com @NHL

The NHL regular season ends April 9. Here is a look at the Stanley Cup Playoff picture with three weeks remaining.  

The Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets each clinched a berth in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday. Each still has plenty to play for.

The Blackhawks, who got in when they defeated the Colorado Avalanche and the Calgary Flames defeated the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, have a seven-point lead on the Minnesota Wild for first in the Central Division and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Wild lost 5-4 to the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Sunday. It was their fifth straight loss.

 

[RELATED: 5 REASONS BLACKHAWKS CLINCHED | 5 REASONS BLUE JACKETS CLINCHED]

 

If the playoffs started today the Blackhawks would play the Nashville Predators in the first round. The Predators have the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, six points ahead of the Kings. The Predators visit the Arizona Coyotes on Monday (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, FS-A, NHL.TV). The Kings are idle.

The Blue Jackets enter Monday tied for first in the Metropolitan Division and the top seed in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Capitals. The Blue Jackets and Capitals, who play each other Thursday, each have 100 points, one more than the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals, who clinched a playoff berth Saturday; the Blue Jackets, who reached 100 points in a season for the first time with a victory against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday; and the Penguins each have 11 games remaining.

The New York Rangers, at 93 points, are in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and have a 14-point lead on the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, NESN, TSN4, NHL.TV). The Bruins are three points ahead of the Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division and four points behind the Ottawa Senators for second place in the division.

If the Rangers finish fourth in the Metropolitan and get the first wild card, they will play the winner of the Atlantic Division in the first round of the playoffs. That spot is occupied by the Montreal Canadiens, who swept a home-and-home weekend with the Senators to open a four-point lead in the division. The Senators have a game in hand on the Canadiens.

With their win Sunday, the Flames jumped one point ahead of the Edmonton Oilers for third place in the Pacific. The Oilers, however, have a game in hand.

Here is the playoff bracket as of March 20.

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