Monday, April 18, 2022

What we know, what we don’t, what to make of the Capitals, and lots more

We’re almost done. I’m not sure about you, but the finish line has somehow snuck up on me even as the season has dragged on forever. It feels like every team has been siting at 60-something games for months, only to have the ending appear out of nowhere. Aside from one awkward makeup game between the Jets and Kraken on May 1 that won’t matter, everyone else will be done by next Friday.

Cool. Let’s figure out what we know, and what we don’t.

Here’s what I’m willing to say that we know. (Not mathematically, in most cases, but with a high enough degree of certainty that we can break out the non-erasable markers.)

  • All eight playoff teams in the East, which we’ve known since December, and at least five in the West but probably more.
  • Three of the four division winners, with the Avalanche, Panthers and Flames all pretty much clear. The Avs and Panthers will be top seeds and have home ice in their conference.
  • One playoff matchup that’s basically locked in, with the Wild facing the Blues.
  • I thought we knew that the Capitals were going to be stuck as a wildcard team, but does the Tristan Jarry injury and Penguins slump change that?

Here is what we’re still waiting to find out:

  • How the rest of the playoff field in the West will shake out. Depending on how much uncertainty you want to allow for, it could be as simple as the Knights and the Kings fighting it out for the final playoff spot. You could also say that the Predators and Stars aren’t quite safe, or that the Canucks are still in the mix, but any of those scenarios are on death’s door. (By the way, the DGB Decision Desk is saying that the Jets are done and the Oilers are safe.)
  • Who’ll win the Metro, with the Rangers making a late push to catch the Hurricanes.
  • Most of the matchups, as well as who’ll have home ice in that Blues/Wild series. A Leafs/Lightning matchup is looking more and more likely, but we’re not quite locked in yet.
  • Some non-playoff stuff, including who’ll win the Art Ross and Rocket Richard, and which team will end up with top lottery odds.

That’s… that’s not bad, right? It doesn’t exactly make for a frantic finish, especially if you believe that 15 of the 16 playoff spots are close to locked up, but there’s still plenty of play for. There’s always a weird dynamic down the stretch, as some contenders are mailing it in and some of the bad teams just want to go home but a handful of bubble teams are playing for their lives.

At the very least, it all adds up to a reason to stay tuned in for the next few weeks, unless you’re an Avalanche or Panthers fan and want to rest up for a long playoff run. For the rest of us, let’s check out this week’s rankings…

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