As the National Hockey League season nears its completion, the race for teams to secure a postseason birth is in full force. In both the Eastern and Western Conference, several clubs have already or are on the verge of clinching a spot in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But for a select few, their hope of extending their season into mid-April could come down to the next few weeks and possibly the last games of the year. Let’s take a look at the odds and probability for each of those teams looking to claim those last few slots:
After going through a ten-game losing streak earlier this season, the Flyers have had the most dramatic turnaround of any team in the NHL. Since about mid-December, Philadelphia went on a torrid pace and received excellent contributions from captain Claude Giroux, Jakob Voracek, and unsung forward Sean Couturier. Their young but impressive blueline has made Philadelphia a team to fear, and whoever matches up with them if a postseason birth occurs, will have their hands full. The Flyers reaching the playoffs after the year that unfolded would be a fantastic story.
Probability of getting in: High. Odds: 91.1%.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
The Blue Jackets hold their own playoff destiny in their hands. For most of the season, they were in the fight for the top seed in the Metropolitan Division. They struggled for a bit that pushed them back toward the wild card in the division. After they loaded up at the trade deadline — Thomas Vanek, Mark Letestu, and Ian Cole — Columbus has gotten hot as of late and have re-discovered their winning ways. And with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky and one of deepest forward corps in the league, a second straight postseason appearance does seem to be more realistic than not.
Probability of getting in: Slightly above average. Odds: 68.5%.
New Jersey Devils:
No team has shocked the league more than the New Jersey Devils. Ok, maybe the Golden Knights are in that conversation, but the Devils have jumped on everyone’s radar from November till now. MVP candidate Taylor Hall has had a terrific campaign, while behind him, the rookie trio — Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, and Will Butcher — have provided the Devs with a new identity. Their goaltending situation, Cory Schneider, and Keith Kinkaid continue to be a question mark, but if they can get that under control, their pesky nature will provide fits for any team they play. It’s now or never for New Jersey who has missed the playoffs the past five years.
Probability of getting in: Above average. Odds: 77.4%.
The second half of this year has been a rebirth in Sunrise. The Panthers — who were considered dead at the All-Star break — have stormed their way back into playoff contention. Their play on the road took a complete 360 from earlier in the year, while the last month and a half, they turned BB&T Center into a fortress, going 8-0-0 up until their recent loss to the Senators in regulation. Future Hall of Famer net-minder Roberto Luongo has turned back the clock, while their underrated duo of Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck have been lights out offensively. Florida missed the playoffs a year ago amidst inner turmoil and stealing a spot after the season that has occurred would be a shocker.
Probability of getting in: Low. Odds: 59.3%.
The Hurricanes have fought to find consistency for the entire year, including now. They now have new ownership and made a bold move removing longtime g.m. Ron Francis. Forward Sebastian Aho has followed up his rookie campaign with another very productive season. Defensively, the Canes have one of the top young cores in the league with Noah Hanifin, Jacob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Justin Faulk. Trying to establish themselves in goal has brought Carolina down during the second half of the season and breaking their long playoff drought less a reality.
Probability of getting in: Extremely Low. Odds: 1.5%.
St. Louis Blues:
Almost all season — up until the last couple weeks — the St. Louis Blues look like world-beaters in the West. Superstar Vladimir Tarasenko has produced another phenomenal season. Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz have developed into solid NHL players, both eclipsing the 50-point plateau. Their defense — headlines by Alex Pietrangelo — has excelled in part to fellow stud Colton Parayko. Now on the outside looking in, their run of seven straight playoff seasons could be in jeopardy.
Probability of getting in: Low. Odds: 42.1%.
Nothing has come easy for the Flames this season. They were supposed to another step forward with new goalie Mike Smith and the sensational duo of Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Behind those three, the entire team has struggled to elevate their level of play, which has made for some harsh realities for fiery bench boss Glen Gulutzan. Calgary is trying to make three playoff appearances in four seasons, but right now that seems bleak.
Probability of getting in: Very Low. Odds: 20.0%.
It’s usually common ground to suggest the Ducks make the postseason. After all, they’ve got one of the best goalies in the game in John Gibson, and two of the most talented players: Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. Behind Perry and Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell has emerged as one of the top players in the NHL. The Ducks have won five straight Pacific Division titles and haven’t missed the postseason since 2011-12. Not seeing Anaheim in the playoffs would be a weird sight.
Probability of getting in: Low. Odds: 53.2%
Led by highly-renown head coach Ken Hitchcock — the Stars were built to challenge for the Central Division crown. However, after a good start to the year, Dallas fell back because of inconsistency and spotty goaltending. Tyler Seguin is playing at an MVP rate and defensemen John Klingberg is a favorite for the Norris Trophy. Still that hasn’t been enough. Dallas could be on the verge of not making the playoffs for a second straight year.
Probability of getting in: Low. Odds: 53.7%.
Boy did this team come out of nowhere. The Avs — who finished in dead last a year ago — have completely defied expectations. Nathan MacKinnon is a Hart Trophy Candidate, while defensemen Tyson Barrie is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. Colorado’s young and fast style has made them a very tough out each and every night and put the rest of the league on notice. The club is looking for their first trip to the postseason since 2013-14.
Probability of getting in: Moderately High. Odds: 76.0%.
Los Angeles Kings:
Coach John Stevens crew has been middle of the pack most of the season. Star goalie Jonathan Quick has returned to form, plus forward Anze Kopitar — after an off year — has produced at a great pace. Defensive Stalwart Drew Doughty hasn’t aged a bit, leaving him in the conversation for another Norris Trophy nomination. Los Angeles up until a season ago was one of the dominant teams in the Western Conference. Another year of missing the playoffs — where they control the outcome — would be a massive disappointment.
Probability of getting in: Very High. Odds: 81.1%.
The Wild have quietly kept pace in the top-three of the highly-competitive Central Division. Minnesota has one of the deepest teams on both sides of the puck, and they’ve gotten contributions from throughout the lineup. Forward Eric Staal has manufactured a magnificent campaign and its been a breakout year for Jason Zucker. Goalie Devan Dubnyk is also in the midst of another terrific season. The club from “The State of Hockey” is looking at a franchise-record seventh consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Probability of getting in: Very high. Odds: 84.1%.