Stanley Cup Playoffs primer: Eastern Conference

There are three weeks remaining in the NHL regular season, and the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference is extremely tight. The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of clinching the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference and Presidents’ Trophy, while the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals are tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division, each with 10 games remaining. And the Carolina Hurricanes continue to hold the first wild card in the conference.

Here is where the Eastern Conference playoff picture stands today:

 

[RELATED: Wild Card standings | Stanley Cup Playoffs primer: Western Conference]

 

Tampa Bay Lightning (56-13-4)

Where they stand: 116 points; clinched Presidents’ Trophy, Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division

Games remaining: nine (two home; seven road)

Key games: March 25 vs. Boston Bruins; April 6 at Bruins

If playoffs started today: Would play the Columbus Blue Jackets in first round 

Need to know: The Lightning clinched the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference and Presidents’ Trophy with a 4-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday.

Video: TBL@DET: Kucherov blasts PPG to even the score

 

Boston Bruins (43-20-9)

Where they stand: 95 points; second in Atlantic Division

Games remaining: 10 (three home; seven road)

Key games: March 25 at Lightning; April 6 vs. Lightning 

If playoffs started today: Would play the Toronto Maple Leafs in first round 

Need to know: The Bruins are 12-3-1 since their leading goal scorer (31) David Pastrnak underwent thumb surgery on Feb. 12. Pastrnak is expected to return to the Boston lineup soon.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs (43-24-5)

Where they stand: 91 points; third in Atlantic Division

Games remaining: 10 (four home; six road)

Key game: April 6 at Montreal Canadiens 

If playoffs started today: Would play the Bruins in first round 

Need to know: The Maple Leafs have allowed 23 goals in their past four games (1-3-0).

 

New York Islanders (42-23-7)

Where they stand: 91 points; tied for first in Metropolitan Division

Games remaining: 10 (four home, six road)

Key games: March 26 at Columbus Blue Jackets; April 6 at Capitals 

If playoffs started today: Would play the Carolina Hurricanes in first round 

Need to know: The Islanders have won three of their past four and five of seven (5-2-0) and own a tiebreak edge over the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

 

Washington Capitals (42-23-7)

Where they stand: 91 points; tied for first in Metropolitan Division

Games remaining: 10 (six home, four road)

Key games: March 26 vs. Carolina Hurricanes; April 6 vs. New York Islanders 

If playoffs started today: Would play the Pittsburgh Penguins in first round 

Need to know: The Capitals have five games remaining against Metropolitan Division opponents. They are 15-6-2 within the division this season.

Video: WSH@TBL: Ovechkin scores PPG to tie Esposito

 

Pittsburgh Penguins (39-24-10)

Where they stand: 88 points; third in Metropolitan Division

Games remaining: 9 (four home; five road)

Key games: March 19 at Carolina Hurricanes; March 31 vs. Carolina Hurricanes 

If playoffs started today: Would play the Capitals in first round

Need to know: Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is fourth in the NHL with 92 points (33 goals, 59 assists), his most since he had 104 points (36 goals, 68 assists) in 2013-14.

 

Carolina Hurricanes (39-25-7)

Where they stand: 85 points; first wild card from Eastern Conference

Games remaining: 11 (seven home, four road)

Key games: March 19 vs. Penguins; March 26 at Capitals 

If playoffs started today: Would play the Islanders in first round

Need to know: The Hurricanes allow an average of 34.8 shots on goal per game, most in the NHL. However, their 2.73 goals-against average is seventh best in the League.

 

Columbus Blue Jackets (40-28-4) 

Where they stand: 84 points; second wild card from Eastern Conference

Games remaining: 10 (three home; seven road)

Key games: March 26 vs. Islanders; March 28 vs. Montreal Canadiens 

If playoffs started today: Would play the Lightning in first round

Need to know: The Blue Jackets have allowed two goals or fewer in five of their past seven games (4-2-1).

 

Montreal Canadiens (37-28-7)

Where they stand: 81 points; three points out of second wild card

Games remaining: 10 (five home; five road)

Key games: March 21 vs. Islanders; April 6 vs. Maple Leafs 

If playoffs started today: Would not qualify 

Need to know: The Canadiens have lost four of their past five games and scored eight goals in that span.

Video: CHI@MTL: Price honored after reaching 315 wins

 

Philadelphia Flyers (35-29-8)

Where they stand: 78 points; six points out of second wild card 

Games remaining: 10 (five home, five road)

Key games: March 23 vs. Islanders; March 30 at Hurricanes

If playoffs started today: Would not qualify 

Need to know: The Flyers are 25th in the League in penalty killing percentage (78.6) and tied for 24th on the power play (16.3).

 

Florida Panthers (32-28-12)

Where they stand: 76 points; eight points out of second wild card 

Games remaining: 10 (five home; five road)

Key games: March 26 at Canadiens; March 30 at Bruins

If playoffs started today: Would not qualify

Need to know: The Panthers had won four games in a row and scored 20 goals in that span before a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. 

 

Buffalo Sabres (31-32-9)

Where they stand: 71 points; 13 points out of second wild card 

Games remaining: 10 (five home; five road)

Key games: March 20 vs. Maple Leafs; March 23 at Canadiens

If playoffs started today: Would not qualify

Need to know: The Sabres are 3-11-2 since Feb 15 and are winless in their past 10 road games (0-8-2) since Jan. 30.

 

New York Rangers (28-31-13)

Where they stand: 69 points; 15 points out of second wild card

Games remaining: 10 (five home; five road)

Key games: March 25 vs. Penguins; March 31 at Flyers

If playoffs started today: Would not qualify

Need to know: The Rangers have played 38 games decided by one goal this season and are 16-9-13 in those games. They are 6-15 in games decided by three goals or more.

 

The New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators have been eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.

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