Two weeks ago we took a look at the battle for the final playoff spots in the Eastern and Western Conferences and what each team still in a serious fight for a postseason berth needed to do to advance. We're naturally nearing the end of the regular season and there are still spots up for grabs, so it seems appropriate to offer an updated version today.
Record: 38-25-13 (89 points)
Position: Second Wild Card seed
Min. Finish Needed for 50%+ chance of making playoffs (per Sports Club Stats): 2-3-1
Player To Watch: Ryan Spooner was called on Feb. 21 and since then the 23-year-old forward has been one of Boston's best players with seven goals and 15 points in 18 games. They probably wouldn't be in a postseason position right now if not for his help.
Summary: The Bruins endured a six-game losing streak from Mar 15-26 that put their season in jeopardy, but they've bounced back with back-to-back wins against the Rangers and Hurricanes. With the Ottawa Senators potentially cooling down, in part due to injuries, it's looking more and more like Boston will be able to squeak into the playoffs. Still, the Bruins can't get comfortable yet, especially given that they still have two games against Florida.
Record: 37-26-12 (86 points)
Position: Three points behind in Wild Card race
Min. Finish Needed: 5-2-0/3-0-4
Player To Watch: Andrew Hammond allowed two or fewer goals in his first 12 starts, which propelled Ottawa back into the playoff race. He has since surrendered three or more goals in three of his last four contests and his losing streak ended on March 26 when he allowed five goals on 22 shots versus the Rangers. It was revealed after the game though that he was playing through a lower-body injury and he missed Ottawa's following two contests as a result (both losses). Ottawa will go back to Hammond on Tuesday desperate for a win. Can he recapture his former magic to lead the Senators to the playoffs?
Summary: Even if Ottawa is able to beat Detroit on Tuesday, that will only be the start. The Senators margin for error is pretty low at this point, as illustrated by their minimum finish needed to have a 50% chance of advancing and the fact that they don't have any games left against Boston just complicates things further for them. It also remains to be seen how the Senators will handle the goaltending situation now that both Hammond and Craig Anderson are healthy. Anderson has lost his last three starts and you would have to go back to Jan. 15 to find the last time he allowed fewer than three goals in a contest. Still, he is technically their number one goalie and given that Ottawa has a fairly condensed schedule in April, coach Dave Cameron might be reluctant to lean exclusively on Hammond, even if he does start producing again.
Record: 35-26-15 (85 points)
Position: Four points behind in Wild Card race
Min. Finish Needed: 5-0-1
Player To Watch: Jaromir Jagr has been a great fit for the Florida Panthers so far with four goals and 12 points in 14 games. There's talk of him re-signing for the 2015-16 campaign and while he's obviously 43 years old now, he should have some fantasy value next season if he is once again put on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov.
Summary: Florida is up against the ropes, but all hope isn't lost. The Panthers still have two games remaining against the Boston Bruins. If they win both of those then their chances of making the playoffs will be better than they currently seem.
Record: 42-28-7 (91 points)
Position: Third Pacific Division seed
Min. Finish Needed: 2-3-0
Player To Watch: Jiri Hudler has been amazing this month with 10 goals and 23 points in 15 games. That's brought him up to 29 goals and 71 points in 74 contests, which is already 14 points higher than his previous career high. Back in 2010, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock argued that Hudler had the potential to be a star and even specifically suggested that Hudler had 70-point potential. Babcock was talking about the 2010-11 campaign at the time, but still, Hudler was able to eventually prove him right.
Summary: The Calgary Flames have been just treading water lately with a 4-3-2 record starting with their loss on March 14. Fortunately that's been good enough as their principal adversary in the battle for a playoff spot, the Los Angeles Kings, hasn't been able to take advantage of Calgary's recent mediocrity. With the 2014-15 campaign nearly over, it now looks like the Flames might not need to do a whole lot more to advance to the postseason. Then again, circumstances can change in a hurry and they will finish the season with contests against Los Angeles (April 9) and Winnipeg (April 11).
Record: 39-25-12 (90 points)
Position: Second Wild Card seed
Min. Finish Needed: 3-3-0/2-2-2
Player To Watch: The Jets got Tyler Myers in the Evander Kane trade and so far the towering defenseman has been a great fit in Winnipeg. He has three goals and 13 points in 19 contests with the Jets while averaging 23:13 minutes per game. He's one of the reasons Winnipeg occupies a playoff position and his strong finish should be remembered when it comes time to participate in 2015-16 fantasy drafts.
Summary: Winnipeg is in a solid position, but losing two of its last three contests has complicated matters. Los Angeles is the only team remaining with a legitimate shot of claiming an already occupied playoff spot and the Kings have two potential avenues to do that. Winnipeg has spent some time ahead of Calgary as far as the squads' records are concerned and that meant the Los Angeles was primarily competing with the Flames rather than the Jets. However, right now the Jets are in a vulnerable position as Calgary's superior record puts Winnipeg directly in Los Angeles' targets.
Los Angeles Kings
Position: Two points behind in Wild Card race
Min. Finish Needed: 4-2-0/3-1-2
Player To Watch: Jonathan Quick hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, but since the All-Star break he's been exactly what the Kings have needed. More specifically, he has a 2.07 GAA and .922 save percentage in his last 28 games. That Kings have barely used backup goaltender Martin Jones since the All-Star break and with their season on the line, they are likely to bench Quick now.
Summary: Los Angeles found itself in a playoff position after winning three straight contests, but the Kings are back on the outside looking in after back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Chicago. On the plus side, four of their remaining six games are against teams that aren't in playoff positions, so that might help push them over the top. As mentioned before, the Kings will either compete for the third Pacific Division seed or second Wild Card seed depending on which squad (Calgary or Winnipeg) has the worst record.