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The Playoff Picture in the NHL

The Playoff Picture in the NHL | Tipico
The Playoff Picture in the NHL | Tipico
Alex Valdes
Published: 2023-02-28

The NHL season is about three-quarters done, and while a handful of top teams have all but locked up playoff berths, numerous lottery-bound teams are now hoping for a shot at presumed first overall pick Connor Bedard in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

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Currently there are 13 teams in the Eastern Conference and 10 in the Western Conference above 'NHL .500' (more points than games played) and thus in the mix for a playoff spot. (The NHL awards two standings points for a win, one for an overtime or shootout loss and none for a regulation loss).

At the conclusion of the 82-game regular season, the top three teams from the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions make the postseason in the Eastern Conference. Similarly, the top three teams from the Central and Pacific make the playoffs in the Western Conference. In addition, two wild card teams from each Conference – the teams with the next-highest points tally – will also reach the postseason.


The Atlantic Division has the clearest picture at the top. The Bruins are in the midst of a historically strong season, and their league-best record has them comfortably atop the standings.

The Maple Leafs and Lightning are also enjoying successful campaigns and are all but assured to face each other in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the second and third seeds in the Atlantic.

These two teams will both be motivated down the stretch, though, as home-ice advantage is still up for grabs in this rematch of a first-round series that went seven games in 2022.

The Metropolitan Division also has a clearly defined top three, though the Hurricanes have much less breathing room at the top spot. Carolina has the second-most points in the NHL, but the Devils have the third-most. Assuming New Jersey can’t catch the 'Canes, the Devils will take on the Rangers – the third seed to reach the playoffs out of the Metropolitan.


The Red Wings, Panthers, Sabres and Senators from the Atlantic are all in the Eastern Conference wild card hunt, and they are joined by the Islanders, Penguins and Capitals from the Metropolitan. The Islanders currently hold the top wild card spot, but they have the most games played among the postseason hopefuls. Florida is hanging around despite taking a major step back after winning the Presidents’ Trophy for the most regular season points in 2022. 

Detroit and Buffalo are young teams looking to end playoff droughts of six and 11 seasons, respectively. Conversely, the Penguins and Capitals are aging teams in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2005-2006 and 2013-2014, respectively.

The young Senators are fighting an uphill battle since they will need to leapfrog all but one of the teams listed above to get one of the final two playoff spots, but they remain within striking distance.


In contrast to the East, the Western Conference is a jumble of good but not great teams as little separates the division leaders from teams in the wild card hunt. Any of the Stars, Wild, Avalanche or Jets could realistically finish atop the Central Division standings or miss out on the postseason entirely.

Colorado arguably can feel the most comfortable from that group, as the reigning Stanley Cup champs are finally starting to get healthy and have a couple games in hand on the rest of the Central contenders.

The top of the Pacific Division is similarly murky, with the Golden Knights holding a slim lead while the Kings, Oilers and Kraken are in pursuit. The superior talent level of Vegas and Edmonton will likely win out in the end over the depth of LA and Seattle, but like the Central, the Pacific probably won’t be sorted out until the final week of the regular season.

Besides the eight Western Conference teams mentioned above, the Flames and Predators are also hanging around. Both are on the outside looking in but could easily climb into a wild card spot with a late-season surge, especially with so many catchable teams in front of them.

Things get ugly after Nashville, as the Blues, Coyotes and Blackhawks are all out of the postseason mix in the Central while the Canucks, Sharks and Ducks dwell near the bottom of the Pacific Division.

The Metropolitan Division’s Blue Jackets currently have the fewest standings points, but the five teams with the lowest totals after that – Anaheim, Chicago, San Jose, Arizona and Vancouver – all hail from the Western Conference.



Imago/Zuma Wire

The Playoff Picture in the NHL | Tipico


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