There will be more than just two points at stake when the Chicago Blackhawks play the Boston Bruins on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). Chicago, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Colorado Avalanche can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Boston can become the first team to win a division title. Here are the scenarios:
Bruins can win the Atlantic Division and clinch at least a top-two spot in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they beat the Blackhawks in any fashion AND have the Tampa Bay Lightning lose to the New York Islanders in any way. Boston also can win the division if they get one point against the Blackhawks AND the Lightning lose to the Islanders in regulation.
Penguins would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they get at least one point against the Los Angeles Kings.
Blackhawks would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they get at least one point against the Bruins OR if the Phoenix Coyotes lose to the New Jersey Devils in any fashion.
Avalanche would clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs if they defeat the Vancouver Canucks in any fashion AND the Coyotes lose to the Devils in any fashion.
The Bruins are the only team in the Eastern Conference to have clinched a postseason spot. The St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks already are in from the Western Conference.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it is now division-based and a wild-card system has been added.
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It is possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.
Seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. There is no reseeding as the tournament moves to the second round and winners of that series advance to the conference championship series and the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final.