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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Flames can take first in West

Victory against Rangers would move them ahead of Sharks

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2019 NHL postseason. There are 23 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.

 

On Tap

There are six games on the schedule Friday, all with playoff implications.

Philadelphia Flyers at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; TSN4, NBCSP+, NHL.TV) -- The Flyers are 4-2-0 in their past six games but lost 5-2 at home to the Washington Capitals on Thursday to remain five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs, who have lost two straight home games and are 1-2-1 in their past four overall, are four points behind the Boston Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division.

Carolina Hurricanes at Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, FS-O, FS-CR, NHL.TV) -- The Hurricanes, going for their third straight win, are two points ahead of the Blue Jackets for the first wild card from the East and four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Columbus is tied with the Montreal Canadiens with 81 points but hold the second wild card from the East because they've played one fewer game.

Vegas Golden Knights at Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN360, SNE, SNO, FS-SW, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV) -- The Golden Knights, 6-1-0 in their past seven games, have a four-point lead on the Arizona Coyotes for third place in the Pacific Division. The Stars, also 6-1-0 in their past seven, are third in the Central Division with 79 points; they are even in points with the St. Louis Blues but hold the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker 37-35.

Anaheim Ducks at Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; ALT, FS-W, NHL.TV) -- The Avalanche are five points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card from the Western Conference. The Ducks, who lost 6-1 at the Coyotes on Thursday, are 12 points out of the second wild card.

New York Rangers at Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SNW, MSG 2, NHL.TV) -- The Flames would jump ahead of the San Jose Sharks into first place in the Pacific Division and Western Conference with a win of any kind; they are one point behind the Sharks entering play Friday. The Rangers are 12 points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the East.

New Jersey Devils at Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET; SNP, MSG+, NHL.TV) -- The Canucks are 10 points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card from the West. The Devils need a win to remain in playoff contention; they can be eliminated with a loss or if the Blue Jackets get one point against the Hurricanes.

 

Need to know

The latest news surrounding the playoff races

Here are the projected lineups and starting goalies for the games tonight.

The Dallas Stars called up goalie Landon Bow from Texas of the American Hockey League on Friday. He's likely to back up Anton Khudobin against the Golden Knights. Ben Bishop, who left Dallas' 4-1 win at the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, isn't expected to dress.

Green, not blue, is the predominant color for the Toronto Maple Leafs this weekend. With St. Patrick's Day on Sunday, the Maple Leafs are celebrating their heritage; they were known as the Toronto St. Patricks from 1919-27 (winning the Stanley Cup in 1922) before being renamed the Maple Leafs. Toronto will wear throwback uniforms at home against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday and against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday.

 

Thought of the Day

Is tonight the last chance for the Philadelphia Flyers to remain a viable contender for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

After losing 5-2 to the Washington Capitals at home on Thursday, the Flyers enter Friday five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with 12 games remaining. Now they have to play the Toronto Maple Leafs (42-23-5) at Scotiabank Arena in the second game of a back-to-back (7 p.m. ET; TSN4, NBCSP+, NHL.TV), followed by a game at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday.

In the five seasons since the adoption of the current playoff format, the second wild card in the East has averaged 96 points; for the Flyers to get that many, they need 20 points in their final 12 games.

Nine of those games are against teams currently holding a playoff position. Sunday starts a run of five games in eight days, with three on the road -- including a visit to the Chicago Blackhawks -- and is capped with a back-to-back next weekend against the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division, the New York Islanders and the Capitals. The Flyers also have two more games left against the Carolina Hurricanes, who enter Friday holding the first wild card from the East, another game against the Maple Leafs, and a two-game road trip during the final week of the season against the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues.

"I strongly believe we're not out of it," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said after the loss Thursday.

The Flyers have done well to make the playoffs a possibility, going 19-6-2 (40 points) since Jan. 9, the third-best record in the NHL in that span after the Tampa Bay Lightning (44 points) and the Blues (41).

But after the loss to the Capitals and with the rough road ahead, reaching the postseason might be one hill too many to climb.

Adam Kimelman, NHL.com deputy managing editor

 
About last night

All 10 games on the schedule Thursday had playoff implications:

Washington Capitals 5, Philadelphia Flyers 2: The Capitals won for the eighth time in nine games (8-1-0) to remain alone in first place in the Metropolitan Division. They lead the second-place New York Islanders by two points and the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins by four. The Flyers remained five points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

New York Islanders 2, Montreal Canadiens 1: The Islanders remained in second place in the Metropolitan Division when Anders Lee scored the game-winning goal with 2:57 remaining in the third period. The lslanders are two points behind the first-place Capitals and lead the third-place Penguins by two points. The Canadiens remained tied in points (81) with the Blue Jackets for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference but have played one more game.

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Buffalo Sabres 0: The Penguins extended their lead for third place in the Metropolitan Division to four points on the Carolina Hurricanes, who have two games in hand. Buffalo remained 12 points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Ottawa Senators 2, St. Louis Blues 0: The Blues lost for the third straight time (0-2-1) and fell into the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. They are tied in points (79) with the Dallas Stars, who own the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker 37-35. The Senators have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Red Wings 4: The Lightning, who clinched a playoff berth March 8, moved closer to the Presidents' Trophy with a comeback win in Detroit. The Lightning, who fell behind 3-0 early in the second period, tied their records for most wins (54) and most road wins (25) in a season, which they set in 2017-18. The Lightning lead the San Jose Sharks by 18 points for the best record in the NHL and have a 19-point lead on the Boston Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Red Wings have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Dallas Stars 4, Minnesota Wild 1: The Stars moved into third place in the Central, but lost goalie Ben Bishop to a lower-body injury during the second period. Bishop, who came into the game with three straight shutouts, left with his shutout streak at 230:53. The Wild lost their third straight game and are three points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Winnipeg Jets 4, Boston Bruins 3: The Jets maintained their one-point lead in the Central Division by handing the Bruins their third straight loss. The Jets lead the Nashville Predators by one point and have two games in hand. Boston, which has lost three straight in regulation for the first time since Dec. 1-6, remained four points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division.

Arizona Coyotes 6, Anaheim Ducks 1: The Coyotes moved three points ahead of the Wild for the second wild card from the Western Conference with their 10th win in 12 games (10-2-0). Vinnie Hinostroza had a had trick for Arizona, which is looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The Ducks are 12 points behind the Coyotes.

Video: ANA@ARI: Hinostroza earns his first career hat trick

Nashville Predators 3, Los Angeles Kings 1: The Predators kept pace with the first-place Jets in the Central. Nashville is one point behind Winnipeg but has played two more games. The Predators are six points ahead of the Stars and Blues, who are tied in points for third place in the division. The Kings are 19 points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Florida Panthers 4, San Jose Sharks 2: The Sharks missed a chance to become the second team to clinch a playoff berth when their six-game winning streak came to an end. The Sharks lead the Calgary Flames by one point for first place in the Western Conference and Pacific Division. The Panthers are seven points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

 

If playoffs started Friday

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

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) San Jose Sharks vs. (WC2) Arizona Coyotes

(1C) Winnipeg Jets vs. (WC1) St. Louis Blues

(2P) Calgary Flames vs. (3P) Vegas Golden Knights

(2C) Nashville Predators vs. (3C) Dallas Stars

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