Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2021-22 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.
As recently as a couple of weeks ago the Kings looked be pretty comfortable in their position as a playoff team. They were in the top-three of the Pacific Division and as of March 16 had a six-point lead over a Golden Knights team that was on a miserable slide and trending in the wrong direction.
Things look very different on Saturday.
The Kings are now the team trending in the wrong direction, having lost four out of their past five games and dealing with a shorthanded defense that will no longer have Drew Doughty, its best all-around defender, for the rest of the season. Vegas, meanwhile, is finally starting to get healthy and on a 9-3-1 run since the middle of March. That gap in the standings has been reduced down to just a single point (88 for the Kings; 87 for the Golden Knights), while the Golden Knights actually have a slim edge in points percentage (.580 to .579) because they still have a game in hand.
Needless to say, Saturday’s game against Columbus is one that the Kings can not afford to really lose. Not only to snap out of this recent funk, but also to keep that edge over the Golden Knights.
At this point it really does seem like the third spot in the Pacific is the most likely playoff outcome for the Kings if they are going to make it. If they allow Vegas to overtake them, the Kings are still one point behind Dallas and Nashville in the race for a Wild Card spot while the Stars and Predators both still have two games in hand (with no head-to-head meetings with them remaining). Not an easy thing to overcome.
The good news for the Kings is that they have what is by far the easiest remaining schedule of the competing teams, with none of their remaining six games coming against playoff teams. Their remaining schedule includes Saturday’s game with Columbus, two games against the Anaheim Ducks, and one game each against Chicago, Vancouver, and Seattle. That is manageable. But they still need to collect the points, and it has to start on Saturday against Columbus.
ATLANTIC DIVISION Panthers vs. Capitals Maple Leafs vs. Lightning
METROPOLITAN DIVISION Hurricanes vs. Bruins Rangers vs. Penguins
CENTRAL DIVISION Avalanche vs. Stars Wild vs. Blues
PACIFIC DIVISION Flames vs. Predators Oilers vs. Kings
Penguins vs. Bruins, 12:30 p.m. ET Wild vs. Blues, 3 p.m. ET Golden Knights vs. Oilers, 4 p.m. ET Hurricanes vs. Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET Blue Jackets vs. Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET)
Panthers - clinched Maple Leafs - clinched Lightning - clinched Bruins - 100% Red Wings - eliminated Sabres - eliminated Senators - eliminated Canadiens - eliminated
Hurricanes - clinched Rangers - clinched Penguins - clinched Capitals - 99.99% Islanders - 0% Blue Jackets - 0% Flyers - eliminated Devils - eliminated
Avalanche - clinched Wild - 100% Blues - 100% Stars - 86.2% Predators - 86.1% Jets - 0.1% Blackhawks - eliminated Coyotes - eliminated
Flames - 100% Oilers - 98.6% Kings - 70% Golden Knights - 54.5% Canucks - 4.6% Ducks - eliminated Sharks - eliminated Kraken - eliminated
16.6% - Coyotes 12.1% - Canadiens 10.9% - Kraken 9.7% - Flyers 8.5% - Devils 7.6% - Blackhawks (*conditional) 6.7% - Senators 5.8% - Sabres 5.4% - Red Wings 4.5% - Sharks 3.1% - Ducks 2.7% - Blue Jackets 2.2% - Islanders 1.8% - Jets 1.4% - Canucks 1% - Kings
Connor McDavid, Oilers - 110 points Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers - 108 Leon Draisaitl, Oilers - 105 Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs - 101 Johnny Gaudreau, Flames - 101 Matthew Tkachuk, Flames - 92
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs - 58 goals Leon Draisaitl, Oilers - 54 Chris Kreider, Rangers - 50 Alex Ovechkin, Capitals - 46 Connor McDavid, Oilers - 42 Kyle Connor, Jets - 42 Kirill Kaprizov, Wild - 42