NHL: Teams Begin To Battle For A Playoff Spot



Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Josh Anderson (77) skates around Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) during the third period on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 of at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

Samantha Wexler

As the All-Star Break ended, I gave an overall view at how the standings looked for the National Hockey League. Now, as the playoffs draw nearer, we take a look at who has risen and fallen since. Given the rigorous schedule of the NHL, two weeks can make or break a season. With multiple games a week, sometimes back-to-back, one injury or small team skid can make all the difference. That being said, let’s look at how the standings are looking now.

Eastern Conference

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are absolutely on fire. The All-Star break didn’t seem to be an issue for the Lightning in the slightest, as they continue their climb to the Presidents’ Trophy. Since the last time we visited the standings, the Lightning have only lost one time. They’ve garnered two more ties but only fallen twice. They look to be unbeatable at this point, so it will be interesting to see if the President’s Trophy curse can strike down the powerhouses of the NHL today. They’re a sure bet for the playoffs and currently have a 24 percent chance to win the Cup. Also in the Atlantic, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins look to be in great shape to make it to the playoffs. In the Metropolitan, the New York Islanders are currently reigning supreme, with their closest rival in the Washington Capitals a handful of points back. The Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins are all within a few points, so it should be exciting to see how the playoff race turns out for them. The Hurricanes are very close behind, with about a 50 percent chance to make the playoffs, so the end of the season will vital.

Western Conference

Over in the West, the Calgary Flames are the closest thing to a lock for the playoffs that the West has this year. They’ve fallen farther behind the Lightning, with the gap up to 10 points at one point, but still look strong. The Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks have come on strong, however, and they closed the gap between them and the Flames to just a point. They both will most definitely join the Flames in the playoff. The Central Division in particular has experienced much more separation coming off the break. The Nashville Predators are only a few points back from the Jets, yet the Dallas Stars are much closer in points to the last-place Blackhawks and Avalanche than the Jets. Even so, the Stars will probably make the playoffs just given the way the numbers end up shaking out. In the Pacific, the San Jose Sharks are definitely the biggest winner, sneaking up behind the Flames as of late. The Golden Knights are also making a good playoff push, upping their chances to make the playoffs to around 75 percent. Other than those three, the Pacific is looking pretty weak this year, I don’t foresee any late pushes amounting to anything.

In total, it looks to be another great few weeks of hockey before the standings really get shaken out. For some teams, this year will really come down to the wire. Others, however will simply try to glide in as easy as possible to both a Presidents’ Trophy victory and a playoff berth.