The Eastern Conference playoff race is heating up. Read here for a breakdown of each wildcard contender.
Who’s in, who’s out? This is the only important question NHL teams need to be answering over the next few months. A few teams have taken the league by storm this year, notably the Boston Bruins, the fastest team in league history to reach 80 points in a season. This surprised many, who envisioned regression on the horizon for an old Bruins team that many Bostonians have grown to know and love.
While the Bruins have perhaps done enough to secure the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, the rest of the playoff picture is largely unclear.
The top three teams from each division gain automatic bids to the NHL postseason. The final two wild card spots are rounded out by the teams with the highest point totals outside the top three teams in each division.
The Playoff Picture, As It Stands
Boston, Toronto, and Tampa Bay lead the way by a comfortable ten-point margin in the Atlantic. Carolina, New Jersey, and New York Rangers lead the way in the Metropolitan division. The Rangers, however, are only maintaining their position by a lead of four points over the Capitals and five points over the Penguins and Islanders.
The fight for the final two wild-card spots is between the Capitals, Penguins, Islanders, and Panthers. These teams will be playing for their playoff lives down the stretch, and it will be interesting to see if they can execute.
Assessing the Eastern Conference Odds
I think it is especially interesting that the Penguins are +275 to make the playoffs due to the fact that they have at least 3 games in hand on each of the other teams in the wild-card race. I think the Penguins will be able to utilize the extra games to their advantage and gain a wildcard birth.
The Capitals are -115 to make the playoffs, and while they are the most favored option of the contenders, their predicted chance of making the playoffs, according to Moneypuck.com, is 59.4%, which would equate to a positive value on the -115 line.
The Panthers are +110 to make the playoffs, and while the team possesses the talent to go on a run, the goalie play has proven to be sub-par all year. Moneypuck.com gives the Panthers a 36.9% chance to make the playoffs. The reigning President’s Cup champions cannot be counted out, with Matthew Tkachuck playing some of the best hockey of his career, but he can’t do it alone.
Who Will Miss Out?
The Sabres (+260 to make the playoffs) are at least a year or two away from their potential success and should struggle to come away with 2 points from games down the stretch of the season. The Islanders (+260 to make the playoffs) are simply a boring team to watch, and if it weren’t for their generational talent with Sorokin in the net, the team wouldn’t be sniffing the playoffs.
Odds Via Bovada Sportsbook 11:33am Feb 8th, 2023
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