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Wild Finishes: Last NHL Playoff Spots Up for Grabs

Six Teams, Three Playoff Berths. Who Gets in?

With just four days of the 2022-23 NHL regular season remaining, three playoff spots are still open. Winnipeg and Nashville play for the final wild-card spot in the West. And in the East, Florida, the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh and Buffalo are battling for the last two seeds. Most NHL picks have Winnipeg (-10000), Pittsburgh (-220) and Florida (-300) favored. But it’s not this straightforward so anything can happen in this final week.

Winnipeg’s Spot to Lose in the West

With Nashville’s win over Calgary, the playoff race in the West is down to two teams. The Winnipeg Jets have 93 points and the Nashville Predators have 90, hence why theNHL playoff odds are heavily skewed for the former. Both Winnipeg and Nashville also have two games remaining and against the same opponents: Minnesota and Colorado.

Mark Scheifele #55 of the Winnipeg Jets moves the puck past Milan Lucic #17 of the Calgary Flames - Jason Halstead/AFP
Mark Scheifele #55 of the Winnipeg Jets moves the puck past Milan Lucic #17 of the Calgary Flames - Jason Halstead/AFP

But Winnipeg has a sizable edge as it has the tiebreaker over Nashville, which is regulation wins. Winnipeg has 45 and Nashville has 41 prior to Tuesday’s games. Thus, the Jets only need to earn one point in their final two games.

Winnipeg can clinch the final playoff spot if it can take Minnesota past regulation on Tuesday night, past regulation. For Nashville, it will need Minnesota to defeat Winnipeg in regulation to have a chance.

Assuming Minnesota (-120 to win) does that, the Predators then have to beat the Wild on Thursday. If Nashville loses to Minnesota or even earns a point in overtime/shootout, it still falls short due to the tiebreaker.

So Nashville can only make the playoffs if the following conditions happen: 1) Winnipeg loses to both Minnesota and Colorado in regulation; and 2) Nashville wins both games against Minnesota and Colorado.

The online sports betting odds of this happening are slim at best and -6000 says it does not happen. But those believing in the improbable can win $120 on a $10 wager (+1200) if this occurs.

Minnesota is 3-0-0 against Winnipeg this season and 1-1-0 against Nashville. Goaltender Filip Gustavsson has been on fire lately. He and the Wild will be on the NHL news as they hold a lot of power in deciding the playoff picture in the West.

— Nathan “Grav” (@NathanGraviteh) March 1, 2023

Florida, Pittsburgh Have Edge in East

The wild card race in the East still has plenty of moving parts thanks to all four teams involved. But as the NHL betting lines indicate, Florida and Pittsburgh are the likeliest duo to make it in. The two currently have the best point percentages among the contenders as of this Tuesday morning:

  • Florida Panthers: 81 GP, 42-31-8, 92 Points
  • New York Islanders: 81 GP, 41-31-9, 91 Points
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: 80 GP, 40-30-10, 90 Points
  • Buffalo Sabres: 79 GP, 40-32-7, 87 Points

The Florida Panthers can clinch a playoff spot by winning against Carolina. This is their simplest path to the playoffs. The Panthers have split their two meetings against Carolina this season. But if the Panthers lose in regulation, they will need some help as the other three teams need to lose their games.

For the Penguins, they have the easiest schedule of the four teams on this list. Pittsburgh will face Chicago and Columbus, two of the worst five teams in the league. The Pens are 3-0-0 against Columbus and 1-0-0 against Chicago. Most NHL predictions should have Pittsburgh winning both games and clinching a playoff spot for the 16th straight time.

Now, the New York state teams are in a bit of a pickle here. The Islanders’ loss to Washington on Monday puts them in a must-win against Montreal. Granted, the Isles should be favorites against the hapless Canadiens. But even with the victory, New York will still need Florida and Pittsburgh to lose. The odds have the Isles missing the playoffs at +120.

As for Buffalo, the Sabres need the stars to align to make the playoffs. The odds are long at +1000 for Buffalo to find a way in.

For it to happen, Buffalo must win its final three games (New Jersey, Columbus and Ottawa) to hit 93 points. Then Florida and New York cannot exceed 92 points and Pittsburgh cannot win in regulation. That’s because Buffalo loses the tiebreaker having just 29 regulation wins (32 if the Sabres win their last three in regulation). A loss of any kind ends Buffalo’s season.

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