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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Bruins can win Atlantic, Hurricanes eye berth

Wild try to move into top seed in West; Panthers continue pursuing wild card in East @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2023 NHL postseason. There are 23 days left in the regular season and the races in each of the four divisions are tight. The top three teams in each of the four divisions and the next two highest-place finishers in each conference reach the playoffs.

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

Here are the Stanley Cup Playoffs clinching scenarios for March 23:



The Boston Bruins will clinch the Atlantic Division:

-- If they defeat the Montreal Canadiens in any fashion (7 p.m. ET; NESN, TSN2, RDS, ESPN+, SN NOW) AND the Toronto Maple Leafs lose to the Florida Panthers in regulation (7 p.m. ET; BSFLX, SNO, ESPN+, SN NOW).

The Carolina Hurricanes will clinch a playoff berth:

-- If they defeat the New York Rangers in any fashion (7 p.m. ET; BSSO, MSGSN, ESPN+, SN NOW).


If they get one point against the Rangers AND either of the following occurs:

-- The Panthers lose to the Maple Leafs in any fashion.

-- The Pittsburgh Penguins lose to the Dallas Stars in regulation (9 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN1, SNE, TVAS, ESPN+).


-- If the Panthers lose to the Maple Leafs in regulation.


On Tap

There are 12 games on the NHL schedule on Thursday, 10 with playoff implications. 

Minnesota Wild at Philadelphia Flyers (6:30 p.m. ET; ESPN, SNE, SNP, SN NOW)

The Wild (41-22-8) can potentially move into the top seed in the Central Division, which would mark the first time in more than two months that anyone other than the Dallas Stars has occupied that spot. Minnesota comes into Philadelphia (26-32-12) on a nine-game road point streak. If the Stars lose and the Wild earn at least a point, Minnesota would be atop its division at least 70 games into a season for the first time since 2007-08.

Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, NBCSCH, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Capitals (33-31-8) are seeing their chances at the playoffs get slimmer over the past eight games. Washington has gone 2-5-1 and is six points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card in the East and five points behind the Florida Panthers. The Blackhawks (24-40-6) have been eliminated from playoff contention.

Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; NESN, RDS, TSN2, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Bruins (54-11-5) could secure the Atlantic Division with a win against the Canadiens (28-37-6) and a loss by the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Panthers in regulation. With a victory, the Bruins could also reach 55 wins for the second time in team history; their record is 57 wins in 1970-71. If they clinch in their 71st game, they would be the fastest team to clinch a division title in an 82-game season.

New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes (7 p.m. ET; BSSO, MSGSN, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Hurricanes (46-15-8) can become the second team in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Rangers. They can also clinch with one point against the Rangers and if either the Panthers lose to the Maple Leafs, or the Penguins lose to the Stars in regulation. They can also clinch if the Panthers lose to the Maple Leafs in regulation. The Rangers (41-20-10) are third in the Metropolitan Division, trailing the New Jersey Devils by six points. The Hurricanes defeated the Rangers 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET; RDS2, TSN5, BSSUN, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Brady Tkachuk is one goal shy of setting an NHL career high -- he has 30, also in 2021-22 -- when Ottawa looks to remain in the race for a wild card spot in the East. The Senators (34-32-5) are seven points behind the Penguins for the second wild card with the Panthers and Capitals ahead of them. The Lightning (42-24-6) are trying to gain ground on the Maple Leafs, who they trail by three points in the Atlantic Division. They have lost two straight after winning three in a row.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; BSFLX, SNO, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Panthers (36-28-7) resume their pursuit for a playoff spot against the Maple Leafs (42-19-9). They've won six of eight (6-1-1) and are one point behind the Penguins for the second wild card in the East after training the New York Islanders by eight Jan. 1. Florida is three points behind New York for the first wild card with one game in hand. The Maple Leafs' lead over the Lightning for second in the Atlantic Division has tightened; they are three points ahead with two games in hand.

Seattle Kraken at Nashville Predators (8 p.m. ET; BSSO, ROOT-NW, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Kraken (39-24-7) and Predators (35-26-8) are competing for wild card spots in the West. Seattle holds the first one, two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, and Nashville is five points behind Winnipeg for the second wild card. The Kraken have two games in hand on the Jets and the Predators have three; With a win, Seattle would become the first team in NHL history to improve by at least 27 points from its first season to its second; the Kraken have 85 points after having 60 last season.
Vegas Golden Knights at Calgary Flames (9 p.m. ET; SNW, ATTSN-RM, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Flames (32-25-15) are trying to gain ground on the Jets and Kraken, sitting four points behind the Jets for the second wild card in the West, though they have lost three of five games (2-1-2). Calgery forward Tyler Toffoli is coming off an NHL career-high tying three-assist game Tuesday. The Golden Knights (44-21-6) lead the Western Conference and Pacific Division by two points on the Los Angeles Kings; they have won six of seven.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars (9 p.m. ET; ESPN, TVAS, SN1, SNE, SN NOW, ESPN+)

The Penguins (35-26-10) ended a four-game losing streak Wednesday, which put them back into the second wild card in the East, one point ahead of the Panthers. They are two points behind the Islanders, who hold the first wild card, with a game in hand. The Stars (38-19-14) are looking to keep pace with the Wild, with whom they are tied in points atop the Central Division. They have led or been tied for the lead in the division since Jan. 15, when they trailed the Jets by two points.

Winnipeg Jets at Anaheim Ducks (10 p.m. ET; BSW, TSN3, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Jets (40-29-3) have lost three of five but are five points behind the Avalanche for third in the tight Central Division. They hold the second wild card in the West, two points behind the Kraken and four ahead of the Flames. Winnipeg went 0-for-6 on the power play Tuesday and is 0-for-19 in its past five games. The Ducks (23-38-10) have been eliminated from playoff contention.


If playoffs started today

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


Eastern Conference

(1A) Boston Bruins vs. (WC2) Pittsburgh Penguins

(1M) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (WC1) New York Islanders

(2A) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (3A) Tampa Bay Lightning

(2M) New Jersey Devils vs. (3M) New York Rangers

Western Conference

(1P) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (WC2) Winnipeg Jets

(1C) Dallas Stars vs. (WC1) Seattle Kraken

(2C) Minnesota Wild vs. (3C) Colorado Avalanche

(2P) Los Angeles Kings vs. (3P) Edmonton Oilers


About last night

There were two games Wednesday, each with playoff implications:

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, Colorado Avalanche 2: Jeff Carter scored twice, ending an 11-game goal drought, to help the Penguins defeat the Avalanche and end a four-game losing streak. The win moved Pittsburgh back into the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Florida Panthers. The Avalanche's winning streak ended at six games and they remained third in the Central Division, two points behind the Stars and Wild.

Edmonton Oilers 4, Arizona Coyotes 3 (OT): Connor McDavid scored twice against the Coyotes, including overtime for his 60th goal of the season. The Oilers have won five straight and are two points behind the Kings for second in the Pacific Division and four pointsbehind the Vegas Golden Knights for first. Arizona forward Clayton Keller extended his point streak to 10 games with two goals.

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