In today's NHL, there are some tight playoff races but none are tighter than the Eastern Conference playoff race. There are six solid teams fighting for only four playoff spots. The Flyers and Panthers are in third place in their divisions. The Islanders and Hurricanes are sitting in the Wild Card spots. Finally, the Maple Leafs and the Blue Jackets are settled just outside of playoff positions. All teams have between 70 and 73 points so it is obviously very tight. Some teams have looked much better than others this season, but they are all in the same position, fighting for the same precious few playoff spots.
The Flyers and Panthers are in the best position of all, as they are both in 3rd place in their respective divisions. However, neither team is in a comfortable position. The Flyers, with 73 points, are trailed by the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, and Islanders who all have 72 points in the Metropolitan Division. The Panthers have 70 points and are tied with the Maple Leafs for the 3rd spot in the Atlantic Division. Both teams could be in or out of a playoff spot based on just a game or two. Looking at the standings these two teams are in the best positions, but with how competitive everything has been, anything can happen.
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about the NHL Atlantic Division, Metropolitan Division, and the Eastern Conference playoff race
The Islanders and Hurricanes are both in Wild Card spots and would make the playoffs if they started today. The problem is that these teams will have to face teams like the Bruins, Capitals, Penguins, or Lightning. That is why it is critical that these teams not only make the playoffs, but fight for the 3rd spot in the division. Any team that makes the Wild Card will have a brutally tough series ahead of them and at this point, those teams are the Hurricanes and Islanders. These two teams both have 72 points and will not be pushovers if they make the playoffs.
The Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs are right outside of playoff spots, but they are in no way out of it. The Blue Jackets have the same amount of points, 72, as the Wild Card teams, while the Maple Leafs are tied with the Panthers for third the Atlantic Division. Either team could make the playoffs, but neither team is in the playoffs as of right now. The Maple Leafs have a great team on paper, but they have stumbled this season and have not lived up to expectations. The Blue Jackets have many injuries and it would be very difficult for them to fight through all of the injuries. While these teams are out of the playoffs right now, they can easily make their way back in.
There are so many great teams going for these 4 playoffs spots and any team could finish in any one of those spots, or even out of the playoffs. Two of the teams that have been discussed will not make the playoffs. There are many great teams going for limited spots and any team could make or miss the playoffs.