NHL playoff watch: Does anyone want the second East wild card?


Heading into today’s massive 14-game slate, one of the major storylines we’re following is: Who will win the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference?

As it stands now, the New York Islanders and Detroit Red Wings both have 72 points; the Isles are given the tiebreaker in the standings right now as they have a higher points percentage, but when regulation wins come into play, the Red Wings sit two ahead. But thanks to some up-and-down play from those teams as of late, there are four teams within five points behind them.

  • The Isles have the best chances of making the playoffs, per Stathletes’ projections, at 61.1%. Eight of their final 17 games are against teams currently outside the playoffs — including today’s matchup against the Ottawa Senators (12:30 p.m. ET, NHL Power Play on ESPN+).

  • The Red Wings, who have a 12.1% chance of a playoff berth, play nine of their final 16 against non-playoff clubs, though they face the razor-hot Buffalo Sabres today (12:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network).

  • Speaking of the Sabres, they’ve gone 6-3-1 in their last 10 to pull within three points of the Isles and Wings, and have a 13.2% chance of reaching the postseason. Just seven of their remaining 15 games are against teams out of playoff position, but they’ve dispatched playoff-bound teams as well during the recent heater (including a 7-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights). Of note, the most recent Red Wings-Sabres tilt went to Buffalo, 7-3.

  • The Washington Capitals are looming one point behind the Isles and Wings, and Stathletes projects their playoff chances at 37.8%. They’ll skate in one of the evening’s nightcaps, at the Vancouver Canucks (10 p.m. ET, NHL Power Play on ESPN+). Washington’s schedule is tough, with just seven out of 17 games against teams not in playoff position.

  • One of those games will come against their classic rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are currently five back of the Isles and Wings. The Penguins — who play the New York Rangers this afternoon (3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN+) — are the longest shot of the teams we’ll mention here, with a 4.0% chance of the playoffs. And much like the Caps, seven of their final 17 contests are vs. teams currently outside the postseason mix.

  • Finally, the New Jersey Devils — who had the highest projected point totals of any of these teams heading into the season — will hope their annual trip to Arizona State University earns them two points today against the Arizona Coyotes (5 p.m. ET, NHL Power Play on ESPN+). Including today’s game against the Yotes, six of the Devils’ final 16 games are against teams not in playoff position, and Stathletes gives them a 14.0% chance of qualifying for the postseason.

With a matchup against one of the East’s dominant powers on tap in the first round as the prize, this race is far from over. And while matching up against the Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Rangers or Carolina Hurricanes doesn’t sound appealing, the Panthers did author a stunning upset of the juggernaut No. 1 seed Bruins last spring. Could one of these teams do the same?

As we traverse the final stretch of the regular season, it’s time to check in on all the playoff races — along with the teams jockeying for position in the 2024 NHL draft lottery.

Note: Playoff chances are via Stathletes.

Jump ahead:
Current playoff matchups
Today’s schedule
Last night’s scores
Expanded standings
Race for No. 1 pick

greyline

Current playoff matchups

Eastern Conference

A1 Florida Panthers vs. WC2 New York Islanders
A2 Boston Bruins vs. A3 Toronto Maple Leafs
M1 New York Rangers vs. WC1 Tampa Bay Lightning
M2 Carolina Hurricanes vs. M3 Philadelphia Flyers

Western Conference

C1 Winnipeg Jets vs. WC1 Nashville Predators
C2 Colorado Avalanche vs. C3 Dallas Stars
P1 Vancouver Canucks vs. WC2 Vegas Golden Knights
P2 Edmonton Oilers vs. P3 Los Angeles Kings


Saturday’s games

Note: All times ET. All games not on TNT or NHL Network are available via NHL Power Play, which is included in an ESPN+ subscription (local blackout restrictions apply).

Buffalo Sabres at Detroit Red Wings, 12:30 p.m. (NHLN)
Ottawa Senators at New York Islanders, 12:30 p.m.
New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3 p.m. (ABC/ESPN+)
New Jersey Devils at Arizona Coyotes, 5 p.m.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers, 6 p.m. (ESPN+/Hulu)
Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins, 7 p.m.
Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m.
San Jose Sharks at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.
Montreal Canadiens at Calgary Flames, 7 p.m.
Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues, 8 p.m.
Los Angeles Kings at Dallas Stars, 8 p.m.
Colorado Avalanche at Edmonton Oilers, 10 p.m.
Washington Capitals at Vancouver Canucks 10 p.m.
Nashville Predators at Seattle Kraken, 10 p.m.


Friday’s scoreboard

Winnipeg Jets 6, Anaheim Ducks 0
Los Angeles Kings 5, Chicago Blackhawks 0


Expanded standings

Atlantic Division

fla

Points: 94
Regulation wins: 37
Playoff position: A1
Games left: 15
Points pace: 115
Next game: vs. TB (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

bos

Points: 93
Regulation wins: 30
Playoff position: A2
Games left: 14
Points pace: 112
Next game: vs. PHI (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

tor

Points: 84
Regulation wins: 26
Playoff position: A3
Games left: 17
Points pace: 106
Next game: vs. CAR (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

tb

Points: 76
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: WC1
Games left: 16
Points pace: 94
Next game: @ FLA (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 92.7%
Tragic number: N/A

det

Points: 72
Regulation wins: 23
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 16
Points pace: 90
Next game: vs. BUF (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 12.1%
Tragic number: 32

buf

Points: 69
Regulation wins: 26
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 15
Points pace: 85
Next game: @ DET (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 13.2%
Tragic number: 27

mtl

Points: 61
Regulation wins: 15
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 16
Points pace: 76
Next game: @ CGY (Saturday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 21

ott

Points: 58
Regulation wins: 19
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 18
Points pace: 74
Next game: @ NYI (Saturday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 22


Metropolitan Division

nyr

Points: 90
Regulation wins: 35
Playoff position: M1
Games left: 16
Points pace: 112
Next game: @ PIT (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

car

Points: 86
Regulation wins: 34
Playoff position: M2
Games left: 16
Points pace: 107
Next game: @ TOR (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

phi

Points: 76
Regulation wins: 26
Playoff position: M3
Games left: 15
Points pace: 93
Next game: @ BOS (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 65.2%
Tragic number: N/A

nyi

Points: 72
Regulation wins: 21
Playoff position: WC2
Games left: 17
Points pace: 91
Next game: vs. OTT (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 61.1%
Tragic number: N/A

wsh

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 25
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 17
Points pace: 90
Next game: @ VAN (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 37.8%
Tragic number: 33

nj

Points: 68
Regulation wins: 27
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 16
Points pace: 85
Next game: @ ARI (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 14.0%
Tragic number: 28

pit

Points: 67
Regulation wins: 24
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 17
Points pace: 85
Next game: vs. NYR (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 4.0%
Tragic number: 29

cbj

Points: 55
Regulation wins: 17
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 16
Points pace: 68
Next game: vs. SJ (Saturday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 15


Central Division

wpg

Points: 89
Regulation wins: 37
Playoff position: C1
Games left: 16
Points pace: 111
Next game: @ CBJ (Sunday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

col

Points: 89
Regulation wins: 36
Playoff position: C2
Games left: 15
Points pace: 109
Next game: @ EDM (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

dal

Points: 89
Regulation wins: 29
Playoff position: C3
Games left: 14
Points pace: 107
Next game: vs. LA (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

nsh

Points: 80
Regulation wins: 31
Playoff position: WC1
Games left: 15
Points pace: 98
Next game: @ SEA (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 95%
Tragic number: N/A

min

Points: 73
Regulation wins: 26
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 15
Points pace: 89
Next game: @ STL (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 25.8%
Tragic number: 26

stl

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 26
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 16
Points pace: 88
Next game: vs. MIN (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 2.6%
Tragic number: 26

ari

Points: 59
Regulation wins: 22
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 15
Points pace: 72
Next game: vs. NJ (Saturday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 12

chi

Points: 41
Regulation wins: 13
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 15
Points pace: 50
Next game: vs. SJ (Sunday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: E


Pacific Division

van

Points: 92
Regulation wins: 36
Playoff position: P1
Games left: 15
Points pace: 113
Next game: vs. WSH (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

edm

Points: 83
Regulation wins: 32
Playoff position: P2
Games left: 18
Points pace: 106
Next game: vs. COL (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 99.9%
Tragic number: N/A

la

Points: 79
Regulation wins: 29
Playoff position: P3
Games left: 16
Points pace: 98
Next game: @ DAL (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 85.4%
Tragic number: N/A

vgk

Points: 77
Regulation wins: 27
Playoff position: WC2
Games left: 16
Points pace: 96
Next game: vs. NJ (Sunday)
Playoff chances: 84.4%
Tragic number: N/A

cgy

Points: 69
Regulation wins: 27
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 16
Points pace: 86
Next game: vs. MTL (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 2.8%
Tragic number: 24

sea

Points: 68
Regulation wins: 22
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 17
Points pace: 86
Next game: vs. NSH (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 4.1%
Tragic number: 25

ana

Points: 49
Regulation wins: 17
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 15
Points pace: 60
Next game: @ STL (Sunday)
Playoff chances: ~0%
Tragic number: 2

sj

Points: 39
Regulation wins: 12
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 17
Points pace: 49
Next game: @ CBJ (Saturday)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

P — Clinched Presidents’ Trophy; Y — Clinched division; X — Clinched playoff berth; E — Eliminated from playoff contention


Race for the No. 1 pick

The NHL uses a draft lottery to determine the order of the first round, so the team that finishes in last place is not guaranteed the No. 1 selection. As of 2021, a team can move up a maximum of 10 spots if it wins the lottery, so only 11 teams are eligible for the draw for the No. 1 pick. Full details on the process can be found here. Sitting No. 1 on the draft board for this summer is Macklin Celebrini, a freshman at Boston University.

sj

Points: 39
Regulation wins: 12

chi

Points: 41
Regulation wins: 13

ana

Points: 49
Regulation wins: 17

cbj

Points: 55
Regulation wins: 17

ott

Points: 58
Regulation wins: 19

ari

Points: 59
Regulation wins: 22

mtl

Points: 61
Regulation wins: 15

pit

Points: 67
Regulation wins: 24

sea

Points: 68
Regulation wins: 22

nj

Points: 68
Regulation wins: 27

buf

Points: 69
Regulation wins: 26

cgy

Points: 69
Regulation wins: 27

wsh

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 25

stl

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 26

det

Points: 72
Regulation wins: 23

min

Points: 73
Regulation wins: 26

* The Penguins’ first-round pick was traded to the Sharks as part of the Erik Karlsson trade. However, it is top-10 protected.



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