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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Lightning can clinch Atlantic, East

Flames, Sharks jockey for first in Pacific, West; each could secure playoff berth

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2019 NHL postseason. There are 22 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 Tampa Bay Lightning will clinch the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference overall:

* If they defeat Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SUN, NBCSWA, NHL.TV) in any fashion AND the Boston Bruins lose to the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NESN, FS-O, NHL.TV) in regulation.

The Calgary Flames will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they get at least one point against the Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SNW, SNP, NHL.TV).

OR

* If the Minnesota Wild lose to the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, MSG, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

The San Jose Sharks will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they defeat the Nashville Predators (10:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NBCSCA, FS-TN, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

OR

* If they get one point against the Predators AND the Wild lose to the Rangers in any fashion.

OR

* If the Wild loses to the Rangers in regulation AND the Chicago Blackhawks lose to the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, CITY, SNE, WGN, NHL.TV) in any fashion.

Video: Nikita Kucherov's season in review, Wild in trouble

 

On Tap

Florida Panthers at Los Angeles Kings (4 p.m. ET; FS-W, FS-F, NHL.TV) The Panthers have won three straight games and are nine points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. The Kings are 19 points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card spot in the West.

Calgary Flames at Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SNW, SNP, NHL.TV) The Flames moved back into first place in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference with a 5-1 win against the New York Rangers on Friday; they're one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks in both the division and conference. The Jets are first in the Central Division, one point ahead of the Nashville Predators. 

Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NESN, FS-O, NHL.TV) The Blue Jackets have won three of their past four games and hold the second wild card in the East. They and the Carolina Hurricanes, who hold the first wild card spot, each have 83 points (Carolina has a game in hand). The Bruins have lost three in a row and are second in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs and 19 points behind the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Chicago Blackhawks at Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, CITY, SNE, WGN, NHL.TV)The Blackhawks, who have won four in a row, are six points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card spot in the West. They've won four in a row. The Canadiens are two points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East and have lost three of their past four games.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SN1, SNO, TVAS2, NHL.TV) The Maple Leafs, who came back from a 5-2 deficit to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 7-6 on Friday, are third in the Atlantic, two points behind the Bruins. The Senators have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SUN, NBCSWA, NHL.TV) The Capitals have won eight of their past nine games and are first in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of the Islanders. The Lightning lead the NHL with 112 points and clinched a playoff berth when the Anaheim Ducks beat the Canadiens 8-2 on March 8.

Buffalo Sabres at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; FS-CR, MSG-B, NHL.TV) The Sabres are 14 points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East. The Hurricanes, who lost to the Blue Jackets 3-0 on Friday, hold the first wild card spot in the East. They are tied in points with Columbus and are four points behind the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.

New York Rangers at Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, MSG, NHL.TV)The Wild, who have lost three in a row, are three points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card in the West. The Rangers, with one win in their past ten games (1-4-5), are 14 points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card in the East. 

Edmonton Oilers at Arizona Coyotes (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, SN1, CITY, FS-A, NHL.TV) The Oilers, who are starting a three-game road trip in Arizona, are eight points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card in the West and have played one fewer game. The Coyotes have won four of their past five games and are two points behind the Stars for the first wild card in the West.

Nashville Predators at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NBCSCA, FS-TN, NHL.TV) The Predators are second in the Central Division, one point behind the first-place Jets and six points ahead of the third-place Blues. The Sharks are second in the Pacific, one point behind the Flames and 11 points ahead of the third-place Vegas Golden Knights.

 

Need to know

The latest news surrounding the playoff races

St. Louis Blues forward David Perron was activated off injured reserve and is expected to play when the Blues play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. Perron, who missed 24 games with an upper body injury, has 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 45 games.

The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning meet for the first time since the 2018 Eastern Conference Final, when the Capitals beat the Lightning in seven games. Washington and Tampa Bay will play each other three times in the next 15 days.

Goaltender Corey Crawford will start for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. Crawford, who grew up in Chateauguay, Quebec, about 30 minutes southwest of Montreal, has always played well against the Canadiens. In 12 career NHL games vs. Montreal, Crawford is 8-2-2 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .949 save percentage. 

Boston Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk is expected to play when the Bruins host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. DeBrusk has missed five games with a lower body injury. 

 

Thought of the Day

The Minnesota Wild haven't been playing their best hockey lately. Can they rebound, or will they miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2011-12?

The Wild (33-30-8), who host the New York Rangers at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, MSG, NHL.TV), have 74 points; they're three points behind the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. The Wild had an impressive 3-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 7 but followed it with three straight losses and are 1-3-2 in their past six games.

Coach Bruce Boudreau talked with many of the Wild players at practice on Friday.

"There's a lot of messages sent to a lot of players today, hopefully we see fruit of that [on Saturday]," Boudreau said. "I talked to them today about self-preparation and that's what it is. A lot of it is, to be ready at home. People deserve to see good hockey and we haven't given them a lot of it lately at home."

Indeed, the Wild are 14-15-6 at home this season, a big drop-off from the 27-6-8 record they had at Xcel Energy last season. Their last home win was when they defeated the St. Louis Blues 2-1 on Feb. 24. The Wild have six home games remaining.

If the Wild are going to get back in the playoff picture, they must rekindle their offense and tighten up defensively. In their past three games, the Wild have been outscored 13-3. Forward Zach Parise hasn't scored a goal in his past nine games. Forward Eric Staal has one goal in his past nine games. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk (27-24-6, 2.61 goals-against average, .911 save percentage) has started in the Wild's past three losses and was pulled after allowing three goals on seven shots in the first period of the Wild's 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on March 8.

The Wild have talked about where they are, but they need to respond fast to stay within reach of a playoff spot.

"There's nothing else anyone's going to say that's going to change anything for us at this point," forward Jason Zucker said. "We gotta win games."

NHL.com staff writer Tracey Myers

 

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) Arizona Coyotes

(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

All six games on the schedule Friday had playoff implications:

Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Carolina Hurricanes 0: Sergei Bobrovsky made 46 saves for his sixth shutout of the season in the Blue Jackets' win against the Hurricanes, who were directly ahead of them in the standings. Columbus moved into a tie in points for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with Carolina, though the Hurricanes have played one fewer game. Each team is two points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens and four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Toronto Maple Leafs 7, Philadelphia Flyers 6: The Flyers held a 5-2 lead more than halfway through the second period, but allowed five consecutive goals to lose at Toronto. Instead of picking up two points and keeping pace for the second wild card in the East, the Flyers are seven points behind the Blue Jackets with 11 games to play in the regular season. With their dramatic win, the Maple Leafs moved within two points of the second-place Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division.

Video: Tkachuk, Bobrovsky, Leafs' comeback highlight Friday

Vegas Golden Knights 2, Dallas Stars 1: Marc-Andre Fleury made 40 saves for the Golden Knights in their win against the Stars. Vegas remains in third place in the Pacific Division, 11 points behind the San Jose Sharks and six ahead of the Arizona Coyotes. Dallas holds the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Coyotes, and is tied in points (79) with the St. Louis Blues for third place in the Central Division.

Anaheim Ducks 5, Colorado Avalanche 3: Forward Corey Perry scored twice, including the tie-breaking goal with 57 seconds left in the third period, to lead the Ducks past the Avalanche. Anaheim moved within 10 points of the Coyotes for the second wild card in the West, though the Ducks have nine games to play. Colorado remains five points out of the second wild card in the Western Conference with 11 games to play.

Calgary Flames 5, New York Rangers 1: Forward Matthew Tkachuk had an NHL career-high five points (two goals, three assists) to help the Flames move back into first place in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference with its win against the Rangers. Calgary, which has won three straight, is one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks for both the division and conference lead.

New Jersey Devils 3, Vancouver Canucks 2: Despite winning a seven-round shootout, the Devils were eliminated from playoff contention when the Blue Jackets defeated the Hurricanes on Friday. The Canucks, 3-6-3 in their past 12 games, are nine points behind the Coyotes for the second wild card in the West.

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