NHL Playoff Bracket if the Season Ended Today
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a hellscape. NHL teams have to run a gauntlet of seven-game series, needing to win four rounds to be crowned champion. The intensity is dialed up, and travel is relentless. That’s why playoff matchups are so critical to which teams advance to the next round.
Here’s what the playoff brackets would look like if the postseason started today.
|No. 1 Atlantic Division – Boston Bruins||No. 2 Wild Card – New York Islanders|
|No. 1 Metropolitan Division – Carolina Hurricanes||No. 1 Wild Card – Pittsburgh Penguins|
|No. 2 Metropolitan Division – New Jersey Devils||No. 3 Metropolitan Division – New York Rangers|
|No. 2 Atlantic Division – Toronto Maple Leafs||No. 3 Atlantic Division – Tampa Bay Lightning|
The race for Metropolitan Division supremacy is coming down to the bitter end, but the New Jersey Devils made significant headway in catching the Carolina Hurricanes over the past week. The Devils went 3-1-0, including a win against the Canes to pull even with the frontrunners. However, a loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning the next night put them back at a disadvantage, with Carolina now holding a game in hand.
As it stands now, Carolina is the division leader on the strength of a tiebreaker. That could set up a potential first-round matchup with the first wild card team, a spot currently occupied by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Meanwhile, the Devils match up against the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division series.
The Bolts desperately needed the victory over New Jersey to try and keep pace with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Original Six franchise has a modest lead for second in the Atlantic Division, assuring themselves of home-ice advantage in Round 1. With a three-point advantage and fewer games played, Toronto controls its fate in the playoff race.
Of course, neither team is catching the Boston Bruins, who have already secured a postseason berth. The New York Islanders are holding the final spot in the Eastern Conference but will have to fend off challenges from five teams within seven points of the Isles. Worse, four of the five teams have two games in hand, leaving the Isle in an uncomfortable spot over the season’s final month.
|No. 1 Pacific Division – Vegas Golden Knights||No. 2 Wild Card – Winnipeg Jets|
|No. 1 Central Division – Dallas Stars||No. 1 Wild Card – Seattle Kraken|
|No. 2 Pacific Division – Los Angeles Kings||No. 3 Pacific Division – Edmonton Oilers|
|No. 2 Central Division – Minnesota Wild||No. 3 Central Division – Colorado Avalanche|
The playoff races in the Western Conference are unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory. Both divisions are wide open down the stretch run, and teams will jockey for crucial points in the standings as we race toward the end of the regular season.
The Vegas Golden Knights are in a more favorable spot amongst the division leaders. The Golden Knights have won four in a row to sit three points clear of the Los Angeles Kings for the top spot. Still, the Kings are doing their part to keep things competitive, going 6-0-1 over their previous seven to keep things close with their division rivals. These teams meet during the first week in April, which could go a long way to determining who takes the division banner and who gets the divisional matchup.
But don’t write off the Edmonton Oilers, who have two games each against the Kings and Golden Knights. Their path to a #1 seed is less obstructed than other teams, as they have five games remaining against the lowly San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. Edmonton could easily play their way into home-ice advantage in the opening round, but as it stands now, they would play Game 1 on the road against the Kings.
That leaves the Golden Knights to take on the second wild-card team, the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are running out of gas at the wrong time of year and could miss the postseason altogether. But if they turn on the afterburners, they can catch the Seattle Kraken for the top wild-card position.
If positions don’t change, Seattle will be tasked with getting past the Central Division champion, which could be any of three teams. The Dallas Stars are in the driver’s seat, but the Minnesota Wild are one point back, and the Colorado Avalanche are within five points with three games in hand. Whoever comes out on top might not have enough left in the tank to benefit from the top seed.
We’ll find out soon enough how attrition will impact the standings.