There’s 5 days left in the NHL season and the Eastern Conference playoff race is tight. The New York Rangers have clinched a playoff spot but the New York Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres chances are up in the air. The Islanders currently occupy the final playoff spot in the east. The Sabres are six points back of them but have played in two less games.
We’ll take a look at the Eastern Conference wild card race as the NHL regular season comes to a close.
Islanders Easy Schedule Gives Them a Good Chance
The Islanders last two games of the season will be in Washington and at home against Montreal. The Capitals and Canadiens are each bottom 10 teams in the NHL. The Capitals are also losers of six straight.
The Isles have picked up convincing wins in their last two contests. They defeated the Lightning 6-1 on Thursday and the Flyers 4-0 on Saturday. If they hope to make the playoffs they’ll have to continue their winning ways in their last two contests of the year.
The Islanders now have 91 points and hold the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. They are tied with the Panthers, who hold the tiebreaker over the Isles after defeating New York two out of three times this year. If the season ended today, they’d be playing the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. Boston just set a record for most regular season wins in NHL history.
New York Islanders to Make the Playoffs 2022-23, Courtesy of FanDuel
Panthers Catching Fire at the Right Time
The Florida Panthers are currently riding a 6 game winning streak. The recent hot stretch has brought Paul Marice’s team up to the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Panthers will finish the season with two home games, against Toronto and Carolina. Each of those teams has already clinched a playoff spot. Matthew Tkachuk has put together a stellar first season in Florida and he’s letting everyone know he wants to finish the regular season the right way.
With the Penguins just one point behind the Panthers, it will be critical for Florida to close out the season with two wins. DraftKings likes Florida’s chances to make the playoffs. You can take them to be one of the eight Eastern Conference team’s in the postseason for -280 odds.
Penguins Currently On the Outside Looking In
The longest playoff streak in the four major sports is in jeopardy. The Pittsburgh Penguins have made the playoffs in 16 consecutive seasons. They’ve hoisted the Stanley Cup three times during their run, and have been led by stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby and Malkin are still producing for the Penguins but the roster continues to get older.
The good thing for the Penguins is that their last two games of the season will come against the two worst teams in the NHL, points wise. They’ll host the Chicago Blackhawks at home tomorrow and they’ll finish the season in Columbus on Wednesday.
The Penguins will need to win their last two games. They’ll also need help with either the Islanders or the Panthers dropping a game in regulation or both in overtime or shootout. Pittsburgh won’t have the tiebreakers in their favor, as they have less regulation+overtime victories then the Islanders and Panthers.
Pittsburgh Penguins to Make the Playoffs 2022-23, Courtesy of FanDuel
NY Sportsbooks pretty much see it as a toss up as to whether the Penguins playoff streak will reach year 17. Because the road looks easy for the Penguins and difficult for the Panthers, there is value in taking the Pens to extend their streak.
Sabres Are a Long Shot to Make It
The Buffalo Sabres stand six points back of a playoff spot, but have played in two less games. Even if they win their four remaining games, they will still need help. The Sabres are going to need regulation losses from at least two of the three teams in front of them. To make matters worse, the tie-breaking situation isn’t favorable to Buffalo.
The Sabres haven’t made the playoffs since the 2010-2011 season. They are unlikely to break the drought in this campaign. FanDuel has their odds to do so at +5000.