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Analyzing the remaining NHL Playoff races

We are down to the final days of the 2018-19 regular season and as of Thursday there are still four playoff spots up for grabs, two divisions that need to be won, and seedings to be set.

So let’s take a closer look at who is still in it, what they have ahead of them, and what all can happen over the next four days.

The Playoff Spots Up For Grabs

In the Eastern Conference there are four teams fighting for three remaining playoff spots as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens compete.

The Penguins and Hurricanes could claim two of those spots on Thursday night.

The Penguins have three potential paths to clinching a playoff spot: A win against the Detroit Red Wings; an overtime or shootout loss combined with either a Montreal loss in any fashion OR a Carolina loss in regulation; A Montreal loss in regulation.

The Hurricanes are in on Thursday if they win in regulation and Montreal loses in any fashion, or if they win in a shootout and Montreal loses in regulation.

The Canadiens can not clinch a playoff spot on Thursday, while Columbus has the night off.

Remaining Schedules For All Four Teams

Pittsburgh Penguins: Detroit Red Wings (H), New York Rangers (H)
Carolina Hurricanes: New Jersey Devils (H), Philadelphia Flyers (A)
Columbus Blue Jackets: New York Rangers (A), Ottawa Senators (A)
Montreal Canadiens: Washington Capitals (A), Toronto Maple Leafs (H)

While the Penguins, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets all wrap up their regular season schedules with teams on the outside of the playoff picture, the Canadiens have to play a team fighting for a division championship and their biggest rival in the regular season finale. They are not only on the outside of the playoff picture entering Thursday, they have what is by the toughest road in terms of the remaining schedule.

Everything is clinched. The Tampa Bay Lightning have secured the top spot and will play the second wild card team in the first round, while the 2-3 matchup is locked in with the Boston Bruins facing the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins will have home ice advantage.

The winner of that series will play the winner of the Tampa Bay-WC2 in Round 2.

Who can still win it: Washington Capitals, New York Islanders

The Capitals enter Thursday night with a three-point lead over the Islanders, and can clinch it in one of three ways. If they win, if they get one point and the Islanders lose in any fashion, or if the Islanders lose in regulation. If the Capitals fail to secure the division title on Thursday night it sets up a winner-take-all regular season finale in Washington on Saturday, when the Capitals will host the Islanders.

Given the circumstances (Barry Trotz returning to Washington one year after leading the Capitals to a Stanley Cup and trying to steal the division away on the final day of the regular season?!) it would probably be the game of the year.

Remaining schedules for both teams

Washington Capitals: Montreal Canadiens (H), New York Islanders (H)
New York Islanders: Florida Panthers (A), Washington Capitals (A)

Potential seeding still up for grabs

This is the division that has the potential for the most chaos.

While only the Capitals and Islanders can still claim the top spot, every spot after first place is up for grabs. The Islanders, Penguins, and Hurricanes could all still finish as high as second place and get home-ice advantage Round 1, while the Blue Jackets can finish no higher than third. The Capitals can finish no lower than second. All of that means the 2 vs. 3 matchup could feature anything from Penguins-Capitals, to Islanders-Penguins, to Islanders-Blue Jackets, to Capitals-Hurricanes, to Capitals-Blue Jackets.

The playoff spot up for grabs

There is only one playoff spot still open, and it is coming down to the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes.

The Avalanche clinch with at least one point in the standings or any loss by the Coyotes.

The situation is very simple: The only way Arizona can take the second Wild Card spot is if the Avalanche lose their remaining two games in regulation and the Coyotes win their remaining two games in regulation or overtime. Basically, the Coyotes need a small miracle. It seems like a long shot, yes, but the very fact they are still even in the race given all of the injuries they have dealt with this season and where they were coming from a year ago is something of a small miracle on its own.

Neither team has a favorable schedule, and that definitely favors the Avalanche.

Remaining schedules for both teams

Colorado Avalanche: Winnipeg Jets (H), San Jose Sharks (A)
Arizona Coyotes: Vegas Golden Knights (A), Winnipeg Jets (H)

Who can still win it: Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues

The Jets can clinch the division on Thursday if they win AND Nashville loses in regulation and the Blues lose in any fashion.

Remaining schedules for all three teams

Winnipeg Jets: Colorado Avalanche (A), Arizona Coyotes (A)
Nashville Predators: Vancouver Canucks (H), Chicago Blackhawks (H)
St. Louis Blues: Philadelphia Flyers (H), Vancouver Canucks (H)

Seedings still up for grabs

All of them. The Jets, Predators, and Blues could all finish anywhere from first to third, while the Blues could also drop down to fourth as the Dallas Stars still have a very slim chance to move up to the third spot if they win out and the Blues lose out. Like the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference, there are an insane number of potential Round 1 matchups still in play here.

If Dallas loses its remaining two games and the Avalanche win their remaining two games, the Stars could also fall down to the second Wild Card spot and have to face the top-seed Calgary Flames.

Everything is clinched.

The Calgary Flames have locked up the division and the top spot in the Western Conference, giving them a Round 1 meeting with the second Wild Card team (Dallas, Colorado, or Arizona).

Meanwhile the 2 vs. 3 matchup is locked in between the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights, with San Jose claiming home-ice advantage.

Related: Avalanche on verge of playoff berth

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.