NHL Playoff Picture Ahead of Trade Deadline

NHL Playoff Picture Ahead of Trade Deadline

Ryan Knupp
3 years ago
3 min read

Less than two weeks ahead of the NHL trade deadline, the playoff picture is still a bit murky, but some teams are rising to the top and playing great hockey at the right time. Plenty can change as teams jockey for position and try to bolster their roster, but a few teams have already separated themselves and appear ready for a Stanley Cup run.

Here, we’ll break down the playoff picture for each of the NHL divisions.

Central Division

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes are running away with this division and are arguably the two best teams in the league. The Panthers are tied at the top but are missing two of their top four forwards with injury, and their best defenseman, Aaron Ekblad, is done for the season with a fractured leg and could be in trouble if those players don’t get healthy.

It will be a battle for the fourth playoff spot, and while the Columbus Blue Jackets are still in the playoff mix, they will likely be on the outside looking in. The Jackets sit in the bottom 10 in goals for (2.49) and goals against (3.11). They may be sellers at the trade deadline.

Nashville has won six straight to reenter the playoff picture. The Chicago Blackhawks got Kirby Dach back from injury to provide some much-needed offensive firepower and center depth. Dallas is limping through the season with a ton of injuries but should get top goaltender Ben Bishop and star forward Tyler Seguin back in April to make their season debuts. The Red Wings are a non-factor in the division.


1. Carolina

2. Tampa Bay

3. Chicago

4. Florida

5. Dallas

6. Nashville

7. Columbus

8. Detroit

North Division

The North Division race will be tight to the finish, but it is arguably the weakest division in the league. Toronto’s goaltending situation is a mess with poor performance and injuries. Winnipeg has excellent scorers, and Connor Hellebuyck is an excellent goaltender, but the team defense isn’t there. Connor McDavid will near-single handedly carry Edmonton to the playoffs, but the team has no depth behind him. Calgary, Vancouver, and Montreal have been woefully inconsistent defensively and are not in a good position to make a run. Ottawa can play spoiler on any given night, but statistically, they are one of the worst teams in the league.


1. Toronto

2. Winnipeg

3. Edmonton

4. Montreal

5. Calgary

6. Vancouver

7. Ottawa

East Division

From the worst division in the North to the best division in the East, this division will have the most entertaining race of any division. The Capitals are one of the league’s best offenses, while the Islanders are winning with great goaltending play. Boston and Pittsburgh have struggled through some injuries to key players but will be dangerous when fully healthy.

Philadelphia started the year on a tear, but Carter Hart’s struggles in the net led to benching to clear his head and get ready for a playoff push, and the Rangers have put the off-ice drama behind them to get ready for a run. New Jersey and Buffalo are the clear bottom two, with Buffalo setting an NHL futility record with their 18th consecutive loss Monday.


1. Washington

2. New York Islanders

3. Boston

4. Pittsburgh

5. Philadelphia

6. New York Rangers

7. New Jersey

8. Buffalo

West Division

A two-horse race between powerhouse teams, the Avalanche and Golden Knights are head and shoulders above the rest of the division. The Blues have been decimated with injuries and illness but are getting healthy heading into April.

The Wild have two rookies, Kirill Kaprizov and Kaapo Kahkonen, leading the way, but they struggle to score on the power play and don’t get depth scoring. The Coyotes generate the fewest shots per game, but their goaltending depth could be enough to get them to the playoffs.

The Sharks and Kings were bottom-feeder teams last season, and while they could make things close, they don’t play well enough as a team to be serious playoff threats. Anaheim is rudderless and is more likely to finish in the Top 5 in the lottery draft than Top 5 in the division.


1. Vegas

2. Colorado

3. Minnesota

4. St. Louis

5. Los Angeles

6. Arizona

7. San Jose

8. Anaheim

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