NHL playoff watch standings update: Key games, X factors for the final week of the season

ByESPN staff via ESPN logo
Monday, April 25, 2022
ESPN

We interrupt your regularly scheduled NHL playoff watch today on the occasion of the final week of the 2021-22 regular season to bring you a roundtable discussion on what our panel will be watching most closely these final few days.

We're highlighting the most critical games this week and potential X factors and serving up our takes on what the first-round bracket will look like:

What is the biggest game on the schedule this week?

Victoria Matiash, NHL analyst: After Tuesday's titanic tilt between Vegas and Dallas, I'm looking ahead to Friday's potential bracket-settling matchup between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. By that point, the game could either carry zero weight or determine who both face in the postseason. In particular, watch Washington ice their best effort if those final two points could help them avoid a series with the steamrolling Florida Panthers. No one wants to face Florida in a best-of-seven this spring, including Alex Ovechkin & Co.

Arda Ocal, NHL host: Other than the one I'm hosting on Monday between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+ and Hulu), I will say Dallas Stars-Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday. It's hard to pick anything other than that in terms of sheer importance at this point in the season. But don't sleep on St. Louis Blues-Colorado Avalanche (Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), because that could be a second-round matchup.

Kristen Shilton, NHL reporter: Vegas vs. Dallas on Tuesday. It's effectively a playoff game. The Golden Knights have been chasing the Stars for that final wild-card spot in the West. As this final week of the regular season plays out, that game could be looked back on as the potential nail in one of those teams' coffins. Big-time points on the line.

Greg Wyshynski, NHL reporter: The answer is very much the Golden Knights and Stars on Tuesday. But don't sleep on the biggest game on Tuesday night's undercard: the Carolina Hurricanes at the New York Rangers. There's still a chance that the Rangers could win the Metropolitan Division, opening up their playoff possibilities beyond the Penguins in the No. 2 vs. 3 series, to potentially include the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Boston Bruins or the Washington Capitals. Then again, given how the Rangers have owned the Penguins this season, there's no shame in second place.

Which player will be the biggest X factor this week?

Matiash: Jack Eichel. The former Sabres captain needs to step it up this final fate-determining week if Vegas is to have any shot at leapfrogging Dallas or Nashville for a playoff spot. Other Golden Knights like Evgenii Dadonov, William Karlsson and defenseman Shea Theodore have pitched in their scoring share of late, now it's time for the team's prized acquisition to justify all the fuss and bother that preceded his trade out of Buffalo.

Ocal: Evgenii Dadonov. He will have a monster week, cement his lead as the Golden Knights' top scorer since the trade deadline, and be one of the key reasons Vegas books its playoff ticket, bringing the whole "failed trade" saga to a close.

Shilton: Logan Thompson. Not to harp on about Vegas' postseason hopes, but all eyes will be on the young netminder as he tries to help them secure a berth without usual No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner.

Wyshynski: Joe Pavelski. The Stars signed him back in 2019 for moments like this. He has two goals in two games against the Golden Knights this season -- and a bit more history than that against them from his San Jose Sharks days. His line with Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz has been an engine for the Stars, and one of the NHL's best. Games like this are when Pavs is usually at his best.

What's your prediction for the final playoff bracket?

Matiash: A1 Florida Panthers vs WC2 Boston Bruins

A2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs A3 Tampa Bay Lightning

M1 Carolina Hurricanes vs WC1 Washington Capitals

M2 New York Rangers vs M3 Pittsburgh Penguins

C1 Colorado Avalanche vs WC2 Vegas Golden Knights

C2 St. Louis Blues vs C3 Minnesota Wild

P1 Calgary Flames vs WC1 Nashville Predators

P2 Edmonton Oilers vs P3 Los Angeles Kings

Ocal: A1 Florida Panthers vs. WC2 Washington Capitals

A2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs.A3 Tampa Bay Lightning

M1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. WC1 Boston Bruins

M2 New York Rangers vs. M3 Pittsburgh Penguins

C1 Colorado Avalanche vs. WC2 Vegas Golden Knights

C2 St. Louis Blues vs. C3 Minnesota Wild

P1 Calgary Flames vs. WC1 Nashville Predators

P2 Edmonton Oilers vs. P3 Los Angeles Kings

Shilton: A1 Florida Panthers vs.WC2 Washington Capitals

A2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs.A3 Tampa Bay Lightning

M1 New York Rangers vs. WC1 Boston Bruins

M2 Carolina Hurricanes vs. M3 Pittsburgh Penguins

C1 Colorado Avalanche vs. WC2 Vegas Golden Knights

C2 Minnesota Wild vs. C3 St. Louis Blues

P1 Calgary Flames vs. WC1 Nashville Predators

P2 Edmonton Oilers vs. P3 Los Angeles Kings

Wyshynski: A1 Florida Panthers vs. WC2 Washington Capitals

A2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. A3 Tampa Bay Lightning

M1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. WC1 Boston Bruins

M2 New York Rangers vs. M3 Pittsburgh Penguins

C1 Colorado Avalanche vs. WC2 Dallas Stars

C2 Minnesota Wild vs. C3 St. Louis Blues

P1 Calgary Flames vs. WC1 Nashville Predators

P2 Edmonton Oilers vs. P3 Los Angeles Kings

And now, let's check in on all the playoff races -- along with the teams jockeying for position in the 2022 NHL draft lottery.

Note: Playoff chances are via FiveThirtyEight. Tragic numbers are courtesy of Damian Echevarrieta of the NHL.

Jump ahead:Current playoff matchupsToday's gamesLast night's scoresExpanded standingsRace for No. 1 pick

Current playoff matchups

Eastern Conference

A1 Florida Panthers vs. WC2 Washington Capitals

A2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. A3 Tampa Bay Lightning

M1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. WC1 Boston Bruins

M2 New York Rangers vs. M3 Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Conference

C1 Colorado Avalanche vs. WC2 Dallas Stars

C2 Minnesota Wild vs. C3 St. Louis Blues

P1 Calgary Flames vs. WC1 Nashville Predators

P2 Edmonton Oilers vs. P3 Los Angeles Kings

Today's games

Note: All times Eastern.

Philadelphia Flyers at Chicago Blackhawks, 8 p.m. (ESPN+, Hulu)

Last night's scoreboard

Watch In the Crease on ESPN+ for highlights from every game.

Detroit Red Wings 3, New Jersey Devils 0

Carolina Hurricanes 5, New York Islanders 2

Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Edmonton Oilers 2

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

Tampa Bay Lightning 8, Florida Panthers 4

Toronto Maple Leafs 4, Washington Capitals 3 (SO)

Winnipeg Jets 4, Colorado Avalanche 1

Boston Bruins 5, Montreal Canadiens 3

Minnesota Wild 5, Nashville Predators 4 (OT)

St. Louis Blues 6, Anaheim Ducks 3

San Jose Sharks 5, Vegas Golden Knights 4 (SO)

Expanded standings

Note: x = clinched playoff spot; y = clinched division title; z = clinched best conference record; e = eliminated

Atlantic Division

z - Florida Panthers

Points: 120

Regulation wins: 41

Playoff position: A1

Games left: 3

Next game: @ BOS (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

x - Toronto Maple Leafs

Points: 111

Regulation wins: 43

Playoff position: A2

Games left: 2

Next game: vs. DET (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

x - Tampa Bay Lightning

Points: 106

Regulation wins: 37

Playoff position: A3

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. CBJ (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

x - Boston Bruins

Points: 103

Regulation wins: 38

Playoff position: WC1

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. FLA (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

e - Buffalo Sabres

Points: 73

Regulation wins: 25

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 2

Next game: @ BOS (Thursday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - Detroit Red Wings

Points: 72

Regulation wins: 20

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 2

Next game: @ TOR (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - Ottawa Senators

Points: 69

Regulation wins: 25

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. NJ (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - Montreal Canadiens

Points: 51

Regulation wins: 14

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 2

Next game: @ NYR (Wednesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

Metropolitan Division

x - Carolina Hurricanes

Points: 112

Regulation wins: 45

Playoff position: M1

Games left: 2

Next game: @ NYR (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

x - New York Rangers

Points: 108

Regulation wins: 43

Playoff position: M2

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. CAR (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

x - Pittsburgh Penguins

Points: 101

Regulation wins: 36

Playoff position: M3

Games left: 2

Next game: vs. EDM (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

x - Washington Capitals

Points: 100

Regulation wins: 35

Playoff position: WC2

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. NYI (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

e - New York Islanders

Points: 80

Regulation wins: 32

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: @ WSH (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - Columbus Blue Jackets

Points: 79

Regulation wins: 25

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: @ TB (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - New Jersey Devils

Points: 62

Regulation wins: 19

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: @ OTT (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - Philadelphia Flyers

Points: 61

Regulation wins: 20

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: @ CHI (Monday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

Central Division

z - Colorado Avalanche

Points: 116

Regulation wins: 45

Playoff position: C1

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. STL (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

x - Minnesota Wild

Points: 109

Regulation wins: 36

Playoff position: C2

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. ARI (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

x - St. Louis Blues

Points: 109

Regulation wins: 43

Playoff position: C3

Games left: 2

Next game: @ COL (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

Nashville Predators

Points: 94

Regulation wins: 35

Playoff position: WC1

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. CGY (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 98%

Tragic number: N/A

Dallas Stars

Points: 93

Regulation wins: 30

Playoff position: WC2

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. VGK (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 91%

Tragic number: N/A

e - Winnipeg Jets

Points: 83

Regulation wins: 29

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. PHI (Wednesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - Chicago Blackhawks

Points: 63

Regulation wins: 15

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. PHI (Monday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - Arizona Coyotes

Points: 51

Regulation wins: 16

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: @ MIN (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

Pacific Division

y - Calgary Flames

Points: 108

Regulation wins: 44

Playoff position: P1

Games left: 3

Next game: @ NSH (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

x - Edmonton Oilers

Points: 98

Regulation wins: 37

Playoff position: P2

Games left: 3

Next game: @ PIT (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 100%

Tragic number: N/A

Los Angeles Kings

Points: 96

Regulation wins: 34

Playoff position: P3

Games left: 2

Next game: @ SEA (Wednesday)

Playoff chances: >99%

Tragic number: N/A

Vegas Golden Knights

Points: 90

Regulation wins: 33

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: @ DAL (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 11%

Tragic number: 4

Vancouver Canucks

Points: 87

Regulation wins: 31

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. SEA (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: <1%

Tragic number: 1

e - San Jose Sharks

Points: 76

Regulation wins: 22

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 3

Next game: vs. ANA (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - Anaheim Ducks

Points: 74

Regulation wins: 21

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 2

Next game: @ SJ (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

e - Seattle Kraken

Points: 58

Regulation wins: 22

Playoff position: N/A

Games left: 4

Next game: @ VAN (Tuesday)

Playoff chances: 0%

Tragic number: E

Race for the No. 1 pick

The NHL uses a draft lottery to determine the order at the top 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. The 2022 draft lottery will be held on May 10.

1. Montreal Canadiens

Points: 51

Regulation wins: 14

2. Arizona Coyotes

Points: 51

Regulation wins: 16

3. Seattle Kraken

Points: 58

Regulation wins: 22

4. Philadelphia Flyers

Points: 61

Regulation wins: 20

5. New Jersey Devils

Points: 62

Regulation wins: 19

6. Chicago Blackhawks

Points: 63

Regulation wins: 15

7. Ottawa Senators

Points: 69

Regulation wins: 25

8. Detroit Red Wings

Points: 72

Regulation wins: 20

9. Buffalo Sabres

Points: 73

Regulation wins: 25

10. Anaheim Ducks

Points: 74

Regulation wins: 21

11. San Jose Sharks

Points: 76

Regulation wins: 22

12. Columbus Blue Jackets

Points: 79

Regulation wins: 25

13. New York Islanders

Points: 80

Regulation wins: 32

14. Winnipeg Jets

Points: 83

Regulation wins: 29

15. Vancouver Canucks

Points: 87

Regulation wins: 31

16. Vegas Golden Knights

Points: 90

Regulation wins: 33

Notes on conditionally traded picks impacting the top 16:

  • Columbus will receive Chicago's first-round pick if Chicago does not win either of the two draws in the 2022 draft lottery. Otherwise, the pick defers to 2023.
  • Buffalo will receive Vegas' first-round pick if it is outside the top 10 selections. Otherwise, the pick defers to 2023.
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