Plenty For Hockey Bettors to Contemplate as Regular Season Wraps Up

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Doug Upstone

Thursday, April 5, 2018 3:29 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 5, 2018 3:29 PM UTC

With just a few days left in the NHL regular season, 12 of the 16 teams that will be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs are determined. Besides filling in the final slots, who finishes where has to be figured out.

Hockey players and coaches will tell you they don't care who they play in the postseason, all that matters is winning 16 games and taking home the Stanley Cup. While that sounds good, everyone is human and if your path can in anyway be made easier for you to accomplish your goal, that is what anyone would prefer.

That is why the next few days matter as certain teams are not only are trying to earn a spot in the playoffs but earn home-ice advantage or possibly avoid facing particular opponents. For those of us making NHL picks, at least we know that the effort should be in place for particular matchups. Here is a comprehensive breakdown of the entire playoff picture by conference. All statistics entering Thursday.

Lots of Intrigue in the Eastern Conference

Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto are set in the Atlantic, but there is still business to be decided.

The Bruins and Lightning are tied for 1st place, but because of an earlier snow storm in Boston, the Bruins and Florida have a makeup game on Sunday, the only conflict of the day. That contest could propel Boston into first place and they would avoid a dangerous Toronto squad in the first round.

Florida still has a mathematical chance to reach the postseason but would have to beat Boston twice and Buffalo in between to have any shot.

Washington has won the Metropolitan Division, but that is all that is settled as you can see by the standings. (Also included is upcoming games.)

  • Pittsburgh 96 points - @ Columbus, Ottawa
  • Columbus 96 points - Pittsburgh, @ Nashville
  • New Jersey 95 points - Toronto, @Washington
  • Philadelphia 94 points - Carolina, N.Y. Rangers

Presently, all these teams should be in the playoffs. If the winner of the Penguins vs. Blue Jackets battle wins in regulation, they should have home-ice advantage if they also win their win their final game. Remember, the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in each division collide in the opening round. Philadelphia could move up facing two weaker teams and playing at home. However, the Flyers are only 20-19 SU on home ice. New Jersey has tougher foes, but neither has anything to play for, which could enhance the Devils' chances.

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WE’RE BACK!⁰⁰
The Pittsburgh Penguins have clinched a spot in the playoffs for the 12th straight season, the longest streak in the NHL.⁰⁰
It's time to #3elieve. pic.twitter.com/iZqZZXV7G9

— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 1, 2018
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The Western Conference is About Placement

Nashville needs one victory at Washington or against Columbus to wrap up the Central Division. If that occurs, there is nothing Winnipeg can do, currently trailing by three points and they would take on Minnesota next week.

Vegas won the Pacific and has to see who they will face, but the rest is up for grabs as you can see.

  • San Jose 98 points - Colorado, Minnesota
  • Anaheim 97 points - Dallas, @ Arizona
  • Los Angeles 96 points - Minnesota, Dallas

What matters between these clubs is who finishes in second place and grabs the home-ice edge in the first round. Minnesota and Dallas can change the fortunes of any of these teams, but with the Sharks and Kings having a pair of home contests, the NHL odds favor them.

As far as the last wild card spot out West, Colorado has a one-point lead over St. Louis. The Avalanche also have two encounters in Denver, while the Blues have two roadies. If both win Thursday night, that sets winner-takes-all showdown Saturday near the Rocky Mountains. And wouldn't that be something!

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