NHL Playoff Picture: NHL Playoff Bracket if Season Ended Today

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a hellscape. NHL teams have to run a gauntlet of seven-game series, needing to win five rounds to be crowned champion. The intensity is dialed up, and travel is relentless. That’s why playoff matchups are so critical to which teams advance to the next round. As part of our season-long NHL coverage, we’ll be keeping an eye on how playoff matchups evolve throughout the campaign.

NHL Playoff Picture: NHL Playoff Bracket if Season Ended Today

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Atlantic Division – Boston Bruins No. 2 Wild Card – New York Islanders
No. 1 Metropolitan Division – Carolina Hurricanes No. 1 Wild Card – Washington Capitals
No. 2 Metropolitan Division – New Jersey Devils No. 3 Metropolitan Division – New York Rangers
No. 2 Atlantic Division – Toronto Maple Leafs No. 3 Atlantic Division – Tampa Bay Lightning

Another week, another unchanged ranking in the Atlantic Division. The Boston Bruins are holding steady as the top team in the NHL, but their opponent from the second wild card team continues to fluctuate. The Pittsburgh Penguins have fallen out of the playoff picture and were replaced by the New York Islanders. However, the Islanders absorbed the playoff position by default rather than earning in. New York has just one win over their last five games, coming against the lowly Montreal Canadiens. 

The Washington Capitals were also beneficiaries of the Penguins’ ineffective play. The Caps are grasping to the top wild card despite dropping four of their past six, setting up a potential first-round matchup with the powerhouse Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes went 2-0-1 over the weekend, tightening their grip on the Metropolitan Division lead. Still, those wins are necessary for the Hurricanes to maintain some distance over the surging New Jersey Devils.

The Devils won’t have to travel far for their playoff series if the standings stay the same. It would be a battle for the Hudson River as they take on the New York Rangers in the conference quarterfinals. Wins come in bunches for the Devils, who are riding a four-game winning streak into the week. That’s akin to the Rangers’ recent surge, collecting points in seven of their previous eight. 

The B’s are seemingly unbeatable, but the power balance could be shifting beneath them. The Toronto Maple Leafs have a four-point cushion over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Bolts have three games in hand. If Tampa runs the table, they would usurp the Leafs in the standings and hold home-ice advantage in the postseason. The Maple Leafs cannot afford another early playoff exit, and the only thing worse than losing to the Lightning at home in Game 7 is losing on the road. 

Western Conference

No. 1 Pacific Division – Vegas Golden Knights No. 1 Wild Card – Calgary Flames
No. 1 Central Division – Winnipeg Jets No. 2 Wild Card – Edmonton Oilers
No. 2 Pacific Division – Seattle Kraken No. 3 Pacific Division – Los Angeles Kings
No. 2 Central Division – Dallas Stars No. 3 Central Division – Minnesota Wild

The Pacific Division is well represented in the Western Conference playoff picture, with two teams occupying the wild card spots. The Edmonton Oilers are on a three-game winning streak, climbing back into a postseason berth. Consequently, they have set up an all-Canadian opening round meeting with the Winnipeg Jets, who have overtaken the top spot in the conference. Goals won’t be in short supply as battle lines are drawn across the prairies. 

The other Canadian franchise in a playoff spot also resides on the prairies. The Calgary Flames have turned the tables, moving up the standings over the past couple of weeks. Although they remain below the top teams in their division, they have a leg up on the Oilers in the wild card race. That might not be the advantage they hope to be, as they would have to get past the Vegas Golden Knights in round one if the playoffs started today.

No one can hold the Seattle Kraken’s jock strap right now. Seattle won all seven games on its road trip, improving their current streak to eight straight. In doing so, they’ve surpassed the Los Angeles Kings in the standings, robbing them of home-ice advantage. As we’ve recently witnessed, that makes no difference to the Kraken. 

Surprisingly, the Colorado Avalanche remains outside of playoff contention in the Central Division. With each passing week, their games in hand shrink and their injury concerns remain unabated. As such, the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild occupy the second and third seeds, respectively, in the division. As it stands now, the Stars would host the Wild, but Minnesota has two games in hand over their rivals. Stay tuned as these teams continue to jockey for position toward the end of the season.