Push for the Playoffs: Metropolitan Division still up for grabs

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2018-19 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.

The top three teams in the Metropolitan Division have five games left to play, and it’s still anyone’s guess who’s going to come out of the fight to claim the title after April 6. As of Thursday, the Washington Capitals, who are aiming for a fourth straight division championship, hold a three point lead over both the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Here’s who each team has left to play:

CAPITALS: @ Carolina / @ Tampa Bay / @ Florida / vs. Montreal / vs. Islanders
PENGUINS: vs. Nashville / vs. Carolina / @ Detroit / vs. Detroit / vs. New York Rangers
ISLANDERS: @ Winnipeg / vs. Buffalo / vs. Toronto / @ Florida / @ Washington

The Islanders are tied for third in the NHL for the most wins (23) since the start of 2019, but have faced a bumpy week getting shut out three times while also squeezing in a pair of wins against Philadelphia and Arizona. There’s no doubt that their final game of the regular season against the Capitals is going to have some meaning to it — whether the Metro title is on the line or the difference between a divisional seed and wild card spot is a stake or the carrot of home ice in Round 1 is available to them.

Not to be forgotten, however, are the Hurricanes, who have a game in-hand on the Metro’s top three and sit four points behind the Islanders and Penguins in the Eastern Conference’s first wild card. (They’re also second since Jan. 1, 2019 in the NHL with 26 wins.) Two of their next three games come against the Capitals and Penguins, so either we’ll get a bit of a clearer picture on their potential playoff place or things will get even muddier.

Even the tiebreaker is tight with the Capitals owning 41 regulation or overtime wins (ROW), while the Penguins, Islanders and Hurricanes have won 40.

We may not have any clarity in the Metro until the bitter end.

TODAY’S GAMES WITH PLAYOFF CONTENDERS
Capitals at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET
Canadiens at Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. ET
Islanders at Jets, 8 p.m. ET
Stars at Oilers, 9 p.m. ET
Blackhawks at Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET

TODAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIO
The Capitals will clinch a playoff berth tonight…

• If they defeat the Hurricanes in any fashion
OR
• If they get one point against the Hurricanes AND the Canadiens/Blue Jackets game is decided in regulation no matter who wins.

IF THE PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY
Lightning vs. Canadiens
Capitals vs. Hurricanes
Penguins vs. Islanders
Bruins vs. Maple Leafs

Flames vs. Avalanche
Jets vs. Stars
Predators vs. Blues
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Lightning — Clinched
Bruins — Clinched
Capitals — 100 percent
Maple Leafs — 100 percent
Penguins — 99.8 percent
Islanders — 99.7 percent
Hurricanes — 93.2 percent
Blue Jackets — 56.3 percent
Canadiens — 54.6 percent
Flyers — Out
Panthers — Eliminated
Sabres — Eliminated
Rangers — Eliminated
Devils — Eliminated
Red Wings — Eliminated
Senators — Eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via Hockey Reference)
Flames — Clinched
Jets — Clinched
Sharks — Clinched
Predators — Clinched
Blues — 100 percent
Golden Knights — 100 percent
Stars — 98.9 percent
Avalanche — 72.4 percent
Coyotes — 22.5 percent
Wild — 5 percent
Oilers — 0.8 percent
Blackhawks — 0.4 percent
Canucks — Out
Ducks — Eliminated
Kings — Eliminated

JACK OR KAAPO? THE DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE
Senators — 18.5 percent*
Kings — 13.5 percent
Red Wings — 11.5 percent
Devils — 9.5 percent
Rangers — 8.5 percent
Sabres — 7.5 percent
Ducks — 6.5 percent
Canucks — 6 percent
Blackhawks– 5 percent
Oilers — 3.5 percent
Panthers — 3 percent
Wild — 2.5 percent
Coyotes — 2 percent
Flyers — 1.5 percent
Blue Jackets — 1 percent**
(*COL owns OTT’s 2019 first-round pick)
(**OTT owns CBJ’s 2019 first-round pick)

ART ROSS RACE
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning — 121 points
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers — 112 points
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 102 points
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 99 points
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins — 97 points
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins — 94 points

ROCKET RICHARD RACE
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals — 49 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers — 46 goals
John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — 45 goals
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning — 41 goals
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks — 41 goals

————

Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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