Countdown to the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: A Look at This Week’s Playoff Picture

Photo Credit: AP / Frank Gunn

As there are five more weeks until the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin, the NHL season ramps up as teams on the outside looking in are pushing for a playoff spot, while others look to get hot at the right time and improve their seeding when the puck drops Wednesday, April 11. Here is what the playoff picture looks like this week: 

Eastern Conference Standings:

Key Eastern Conference Games this Week: 

Devils at Hurricanes on Friday at 7 PM – The Devils occupy the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and are two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan with a game in hand. The Hurricanes are two points out of a playoff spot with the same number of games played as the Columbus Blue Jackets, who occupy the final wild-card spot in the East. With two teams battling it out to leapfrog a spot in the standings, it’s going to be a big game.

Flyers at Lightning on Saturday at 1 PM – The Flyers are one of the hottest teams in the league but their six-game winning streak and 12-game point streak came to an end on Thursday when they suffered a 4-1 loss to the Hurricanes at home. The Flyers are one point behind the Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division with the same number of games played. The Lightning lead the league with 92 points and will look to hold their six-point barrier over the Boston Bruins, who have three games in hand on the Bolts, and their seven-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs, who they have one game in hand on.

Islanders at Penguins on Saturday at 5 PM – After going red-hot for two months, the Penguins have lost three in a row in regulation, most recently an 8-4 loss to the Bruins on Thursday entering their game against the Islanders on Saturday. The Islanders will look to stay in the playoff picture; they are just four points behind Columbus for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference but they are 3-6-1 in their last 10 and have lost two straight in regulation.

Maple Leafs at Capitals on Saturday at 8 PM – 2017 playoff rivals clash outside at the Navy Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland for the NHL Stadium Series game but this is nowhere near an exhibition game. The Capitals hold a slim one-point lead against the Philadelphia Flyers for first place in the Metropolitan Division and could find themselves in second place in the division by the time the puck drops. The Leafs won seven of their last eight games before losing two straight in overtime. They trail Boston by one point for second in the Atlantic Division and Tampa Bay by seven for the division lead.

Panthers at Lightning on Tuesday at 7 PM – The red-hot Panthers play their lone road game in a span of 12 games on Tuesday in Tampa Bay. The Panthers have won four straight games and are 7-3-0 in their last 10. The Panthers trail the Blue Jackets by four points for the second wild-card spot in the east with an equal number of games played between the two teams. Against the division leader and in-state rival, expect the Panthers to come out with purpose on Tuesday night at Amalie Arena.

Penguins at Flyers on Wednesday at 8 PM –  The Penguins and Flyers are separated by two points entering Friday and have a match against one another coming up on NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry game. This will be a huge game with the second spot in the and potentially first in the division up for grabs. Wednesday night’s game could also be a potential first round preview. The Flyers have a game in hand on the Penguins.

Flyers at Bruins on Thursday at 7 PM – Two of the hottest teams in the NHL clash on Thursday when the Flyers and Bruins meet at TD Garden. The second-place teams in their respective divisions could be creeping up on the first place Lightning and Capitals. This will be a great game with two cross-division rivals facing off in a potential Eastern Conference Final preview.

Western Conference Playoff Picture

Key Western Conference Matchups This Week:

Wild at Avalanche on Friday at 9 PM – The Wild have been hot lately, recording points in 10 of their last 12 games and a 9-2-1 record in that span. Their recent hot streak propelled them to third place in the Central Division and they will look to inch closer to second-place Winnipeg against Colorado on Friday. The Avalanche are one point behind the Ducks for the second wild-card spot with a game in hand. Colorado will seek to extend their winning streak to three against Minnesota.

Blues at Stars on Saturday at 2 PM – The Blues got off to a hot start to the season but dropped outside of a playoff spot due to a 3-6-1 slump in their last 10 games, though they are tied with the Ducks for the second wild-card spot but Anaheim has one game in hand. The Stars can tie Minnesota for the final Central Division spot with a win.

Stars at Predators on Tuesday at 8 PM – This matchup could end up being another First Round preview with the Predators sitting comfortably atop of the Central Division with a six-point lead over Winnipeg and the Stars occupying the first wild-card spot. The Stars are only a few points away from tying the Wild for third place in the division. The Predators have been hot lately winning their last six and will look to stay hot against their division rival.

Ducks at Predators on Thursday at 8 PM – This could be another possibility for a first-round playoff series. The Ducks occupy the final wild-card spot in the West and Nashville will seek to pad their lead on Winnipeg for the Central Division lead in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Final, when Nashville defeated Anaheim in six games. Both teams have been hot as of late with the Predators winning six straight contests and Anaheim getting points in eight of their last 10 games.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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