NHL Playoff Watch Daily: Key matchups of Saturday’s 15-game slate

NHL Playoff Watch Daily: Key matchups of Saturday’s 15-game slate

7:54 AM ET

  • Tim KavanaghESPN.com

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      Tim Kavanagh is a senior NHL editor for ESPN. He’s a native of upstate New York.

With the end of the season approaching, the NHL has offered us a treat: Saturday’s schedule includes 15 games — everyone but the Winnipeg Jets will be in action — including a number of matchups on which we’ll be keeping a close watch for playoff ramifications.

The New York Rangers’ playoff hopes are still flickering, and they can put more fuel on that fire with a win in their game against the New York Islanders. The Isles will be extra motivated because this is the final time these two rivals will play at Nassau Coliseum before the club moves to UBS Arena for 2021-22. Elsewhere in the East, the No. 1-seeded Washington Capitals will host the No. 2-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins for the final game in their season series. Both clubs have clinched a playoff berth, but they remain in contention for that top spot.

The critical matchup in the Central today pits the Nashville Predators against the Dallas Stars (streaming live on ESPN+). Dallas is two points behind Nashville for the final postseason slot and needs the win to tie the season series for tiebreaker purposes down the line as well.

The Calgary Flames’ playoff chances took a hit on Friday night with the Montreal Canadiens’ win over the Jets, and they’ll hope to make up some ground in the final game of the 2021 Battle of Alberta series. The host Edmonton Oilers lead the series 5-4.

In the West, we’re getting close to do-or-die time for teams chasing the St. Louis Blues for the No. 4 spot. The Blues themselves will take on the No. 3-seeded Minnesota Wild (streaming live on ESPN+), while the Arizona Coyotes host the Vegas Golden Knights and the San Jose Sharks visit the Colorado Avalanche.

Having reached the final stretch of the regular season, it’s time to check in on all the playoff races — along with the teams jockeying for position in the 2021 NHL draft lottery.

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

Jump ahead:
Current playoff matchups
Race for No. 1 pick

East Division

Washington Capitals – x

Points: 69
Regulation wins: 26
Playoff position: E1
Games left: 6
Next game: vs. PIT (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

Pittsburgh Penguins – x

Points: 69
Regulation wins: 25
Playoff position: E2
Games left: 5
Next game: @ WSH (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

New York Islanders

Points: 65
Regulation wins: 22
Playoff position: E3
Games left: 6
Next game: vs. NYR (May 1)
Playoff chances: 99.7%
Tragic number: N/A

Boston Bruins

Points: 64
Regulation wins: 22
Playoff position: E4
Games left: 7
Next game: vs. BUF (May 1)
Playoff chances: 99.8%
Tragic number: N/A

New York Rangers

Points: 58
Regulation wins: 23
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 5
Next game: @ NYI (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0.5%
Tragic number: 5

Philadelphia Flyers

Points: 51
Regulation wins: 14
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 6
Next game: vs. NJ (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

New Jersey Devils

Points: 39
Regulation wins: 13
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 6
Next game: @ PHI (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

Buffalo Sabres

Points: 33
Regulation wins: 10
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 5
Next game: @ BOS (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E


Central Division

Carolina Hurricanes – x

Points: 73
Regulation wins: 25
Playoff position: C1
Games left: 6
Next game: vs. CBJ (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

Florida Panthers – x

Points: 71
Regulation wins: 23
Playoff position: C2
Games left: 4
Next game: @ CHI (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

Tampa Bay Lightning – x

Points: 70
Regulation wins: 27
Playoff position: C3
Games left: 6
Next game: @ DET (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

Nashville Predators

Points: 56
Regulation wins: 19
Playoff position: C4
Games left: 5
Next game: vs. DAL (May 1)
Playoff chances: 68.4%
Tragic number: N/A

Dallas Stars

Points: 54
Regulation wins: 16
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 6
Next game: @ NSH (May 1)
Playoff chances: 31%
Tragic number: 10

Chicago Blackhawks

Points: 50
Regulation wins: 14
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 6
Next game: vs. FLA (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0.6%
Tragic number: 6

Detroit Red Wings

Points: 43
Regulation wins: 15
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 4
Next game: vs. TB (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E

Columbus Blue Jackets

Points: 42
Regulation wins: 11
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 5
Next game: @ CAR (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E


North Division

play

0:49

The Canadiens’ Nick Suzuki scores in the first period, then adds the eventual game winner in the third, helping Montreal take down Winnipeg 5-3.

Toronto Maple Leafs – x

Points: 69
Regulation wins: 26
Playoff position: N1
Games left: 6
Next game: vs. VAN (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

Edmonton Oilers

Points: 60
Regulation wins: 27
Playoff position: N2
Games left: 8
Next game: vs. CGY (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

Winnipeg Jets

Points: 57
Regulation wins: 21
Playoff position: N3
Games left: 6
Next game: @ OTT (May 3)
Playoff chances: 98.4%
Tragic number: N/A

Montreal Canadiens

Points: 53
Regulation wins: 20
Playoff position: N4
Games left: 7
Next game: vs. OTT (May 1)
Playoff chances: 86.3%
Tragic number: N/A

Calgary Flames

Points: 47
Regulation wins: 19
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 7
Next game: @ EDM (May 1)
Playoff chances: 14.6%
Tragic number: 8

Ottawa Senators

Points: 42
Regulation wins: 15
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 6
Next game: @ MTL (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: 1

Vancouver Canucks

Points: 41
Regulation wins: 13
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 12
Next game: @ TOR (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0.8%
Tragic number: 12


West Division

play

0:49

Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar each score power-play goals in the first period, leading the Avalanche to a 3-0 win over the Sharks.

Vegas Golden Knights – x

Points: 72
Regulation wins: 28
Playoff position: W1
Games left: 7
Next game: @ ARI (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

Colorado Avalanche – x

Points: 68
Regulation wins: 29
Playoff position: W2
Games left: 8
Next game: vs. SJ (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

Minnesota Wild – x

Points: 66
Regulation wins: 26
Playoff position: W3
Games left: 7
Next game: vs. STL (May 1)
Playoff chances: 100%
Tragic number: N/A

St. Louis Blues

Points: 52
Regulation wins: 16
Playoff position: W4
Games left: 8
Next game: @ MIN (May 1)
Playoff chances: 90.6%
Tragic number: N/A

Arizona Coyotes

Points: 49
Regulation wins: 18
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 5
Next game: vs. VGS (May 1)
Playoff chances: 7.3%
Tragic number: 7

San Jose Sharks

Points: 45
Regulation wins: 14
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 6
Next game: @ COL (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0.4%
Tragic number: 5

Los Angeles Kings

Points: 44
Regulation wins: 17
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 8
Next game: @ ANA (May 1)
Playoff chances: 1.7%
Tragic number: 8

Anaheim Ducks

Points: 37
Regulation wins: 10
Playoff position: N/A
Games left: 5
Next game: vs. LA (May 1)
Playoff chances: 0%
Tragic number: E


Current playoff matchups

East Division

No. 1 Washington Capitals vs. No. 4 Boston Bruins
No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 3 New York Islanders

Central Division

No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 4 Nashville Predators
No. 2 Florida Panthers vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning

North Division

No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 4 Montreal Canadiens
No. 2 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 3 Winnipeg Jets

West Division

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 4 St. Louis Blues
No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 Minnesota Wild


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. New for 2021, a team may 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.

1. Buffalo Sabres

Points: 33
Regulation wins: 10

2. Anaheim Ducks

Points: 37
Regulation wins: 10

3. New Jersey Devils

Points: 39
Regulation wins: 13

4. Vancouver Canucks

Points: 41
Regulation wins: 13

5. Columbus Blue Jackets

Points: 42
Regulation wins: 11

6. Ottawa Senators

Points: 42
Regulation wins: 15

7. Detroit Red Wings

Points: 43
Regulation wins: 15

8. Los Angeles Kings

Points: 44
Regulation wins: 17

9. San Jose Sharks

Points: 45
Regulation wins: 14

10. Calgary Flames

Points: 47
Regulation wins: 19

11. Arizona Coyotes

Points: 49
Regulation wins: 18

12. Chicago Blackhawks

Points: 50
Regulation wins: 14

13. Philadelphia Flyers

Points: 51
Regulation wins: 14

14. Dallas Stars

Points: 54
Regulation wins: 16

15. New York Rangers

Points: 58
Regulation wins: 23