NHL races go down to the wire

It looks like the final NHL playoff positions likely won’t be confirmed until the last day of the 2016/17 season. Fans already know which eight teams will make the playoffs in the Western Conference, but the final Eastern Conference playoff spots are still up for grabs. In the West, the Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators will be in the postseason for sure.

However, the positioning definitely isn’t settled with just a week to go in the campaign. Chicago has locked up the Central Division and Western Conference title, but St. Louis and Nashville are battling it out for third place with the forth place team entering the playoffs as a wildcard team. When it comes to the Pacific Division, we see that Anaheim, San Jose and Edmonton are all still fighting for the top spot and could finish anywhere between first and third place in the division while Calgary could finish between second and fourth. The club that finishes fourth will make the postseason as a wildcard team.

There are also several close races taking place in the Eastern Conference as four teams still have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs heading into the final week. The Montreal Canadiens have wrapped up first place in the Atlantic Division, but the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning are all fighting for the second and third guaranteed playoff berths. In addition, those four teams are also fighting for the eighth and final playoff seeding, which will go to the second wildcard team. The New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes of the Metropolitan Division are also in the hunt for that final wildcard position. 

The New York Rangers have locked up the first wildcard spot due to their fourth-place position in the Metropolitan Division. But like the Pacific Division in the West, the Metropolitan is still in the midst of a race between the Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins. The final positioning will have a huge bearing on the playoff matchups since the winner of the Metropolitan Division will play the eighth-seeded team (second wildcard team) in the first round of the postseason. The second and third-place teams in the division will have to face off against each other.

The only thing that fans can be certain of during the last seven days of the campaign is that the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers won’t make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference while Washington, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Montreal and the Rangers have clinched sports. Ottawa, Boston, Toronto, Tampa, the New York Islanders and Carolina are still battling it out for a berth. The teams missing the playoffs in the West are the Los Angeles Kings, Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. 

For the teams still battling it out for the postseason, their playoffs are basically going to be taking place this week as they jockey for position. To make things even more exciting for the fans, many of the teams in the playoff hunt will be facing off against each other over the next seven days.