We’re fast approaching the home stretch of the NHL Regular season and the race for a Playoff berth is looming large.
The Boston Bruins have already clinched their place in the Playoffs with their 3 – 2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
The Playoff picture is starting to form but with there being less than 20 games to go, who’ll be joining them in the race to the Stanley Cup?
Before we do that, let’s take a very brief look at how teams go about clinching their place in the Playoffs.
How does one clinch?
Generally speaking the 32 teams in the NHL franchise aim to have the highest number of points by the time the Regular season ends, to secure their position in the Playoffs.
Being that the teams are split into their four divisions; Pacific, Metropolitan, Atlantic and Central, the top three teams in each division with the most points, will be guaranteed a berth.
While the Atlantic only has three qualifying teams with the most points, the Central and Pacific both have a fourth for a Wildcard team each and the Metropolitan has two Wildcard slots.
That brings us to 16 teams going into the Playoffs.
A magic number guide
The number 96 is a rule of thumb guide for how many points a team needs to obtain and exceed in order to qualify.
It’s not a hard and fast rule but if a team maintains a ‘12 points in 10 games’ pace, by the time they reach the 80th game, they will have just two remaining games to make up for a small deficit or increase their lead.
Who could join Bruins soon?
The information and stats we’re about to discuss, are correct at the time of publication (March 15th)
Toronto Maple Leafs – Projected Landing A2
Toronto Maple Leafs are currently on a 40 – 8 – 18 score record this season with 15 games left and 88 points racked up. They’re just shy of the magic number with plenty of time to exceed it.
It’s a pretty big certainty that the Leafs will hit the Playoffs for the sixth time in six seasons. If the Leafs stay on course for the next over half dozen games, they will also likely hit their previous score record of 54 –7 – 21.
It won’t be without its perils though. They are due to face last year’s Stanley Cup winners, Colorado Avalanche and the Boston Bruins twice more before the season ends.
They trail 10 games against the Avs and 11 against the Bruins in their total game series matchups.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Projected Landing A3
Like the Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning could be on course to clinch the Playoffs but it won’t be easy. They currently hold a score record of 39 – 6 – 22 with 14 games left and 84 points racked up.
Collecting the remaining 12 points will require grit. March has not been kind to the Lightning. They suffered a five-game skid with only two wins in the last nine.
The 7 – 3 loss against Pittsburgh Penguins and the embarrassing 3 – 2 defeat versus Winnipeg Jets, suggest Lightning will have to drag themselves to the magic number.
The end of March is going to be fire-walk. They face Ottawa Senators (49 – 2 – 59), Boston Bruins (34 – 9– 70) and Washington Capitals (46 – 6 – 84), each of Lightning has a trailing losing streak against.
Dallas Stars – Projected Landing C1
Dallas Stars look like they’re on course to take the top Playoff position in the Central Division. Their current score record is 37 – 13 – 17 with 87 points and 14 games remaining.
Once they reach the magic number, that would make it their second time in two consecutive years in the Playoffs.
Their path to those remaining points will require them to face the likes of the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks and worst of all, the Chicago Blackhawks (120 – 147 – 31), Philadelphia Flyers (49 – 76 – 32) and back-to-back games against the St Louis Blues (116 – 142 – 43).
These remaining three are teams that Dallas Stars have historic score deficits against.
Minnesota Wild – Projected Landing C2
The Wild have not had as good a season as the 2021/22, although being slightly better than those between 2020 and 2022. The Wild did make the Playoffs in three consecutive years though.
So far, they are 38 – 8 – 21 with 84 points and 15 games remaining to wrap up the season.
They might draw a sigh of relief knowing that they don’t have opponents like Detroit Red Wings (their biggest loss deficit opponent) or Calgary Flames in the remaining games, they do have the mighty Boston Bruins.
Adding to that, they will be without their star forward Kirill Kaprizov for the next three to four weeks due to a lower body injury. It’s a critical time to lose him.
Colorado Avalanche – Projected Landing C3
Colorado Avalanche are looking to regain that glory of winning last season but their score record leaves much to be desired.
The Avs would conclude the 2021/22 season with a score record of 56 – 7 – 19 as well as the Stanley Cup of course.
This season, they so far sit on 37 – 6 – 22. That’s a reflection of previous season’s performances in the past five consecutive years or entering the Playoffs and being knocked out.
Avs have 16 points (80 currently) to gain in the next 17 games. Can they do it?
Luck might be on the Av’s side. Their biggest loss deficit opponents; Washington Capitals are not in the digest of games to come. While Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames are teams with smaller deficits, Avs are blessed.
They have two sets of back-to-back games against the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks. These teams could lead to comfortable wins and points for the Avs.
What’s the biggest worry? Arrturi Lehkonen. The Avs will likely be operating a revolving door of players to cover his loss. Watch out for Dennis Malgin, Matt Nieto and Alex Newhook taking up the role.
Winnipeg Jets – Projected Landing WC1
The Jets are having one of their best performing seasons in the past few years. They currently sit 4th in the Central Division with a score record of 38 – 3 – 27, 79 points and 14 games remaining. That places them on course to get the first Wildcard berth in the Playoffs.
The Jets have a lot of work to do in order to keep their spot but when you check the games ahead, they have teams with win percentages they can compete with.
The Nashville Predators (23-28-1), Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks offer the Jets a run for their money.
What the Jets will have to manage from Thursday, is their showdown with the Boston Bruins (25-41-2), whom they have a 16 game win deficit against.
That’s the end of Part One of our look at the teams who could join the Boston Bruins in the Playoffs.
Check out Part Two for who else could clinch the Playoffs and the Wildcards, right here