NHL Playoff Race: Senators Pass Bruins; Red Wings, Islanders Clinch

There’s a very real possibility last season’s Stanley Cup champions and Presidents’ Trophy winners will not participate in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Los Angeles Kings were eliminated from the Western Conference playoff race Thursday night with a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames, who clinched a spot with the win. The Kings’ defeat means the Detroit Red Wings are still the last team to repeat as Cup champions, in 1996-97 and 1997-98. The last defending champion to miss the playoffs the following season was the 2006-07 Carolina Hurricanes.

As a result of L.A.’s loss, the Winnipeg Jets clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the franchise moved from Atlanta in 2011.

The eight Western Conference playoff teams are set. All that’s left to determine is seeding.

The Boston Bruins, who won the Presidents’ Trophy a year ago, fell out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture with a 4-2 road loss to the Florida Panthers. Boston now trails the Ottawa Senators, who defeated the New York Rangers 3-0 on Thursday, by two points and the Pittsburgh Penguins by one point in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.

The Bruins need help to reach the postseason. They will be rooting for a Senators regulation loss Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, which combined with a B’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning would give them a wild-card spot via the regulation and overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker. Ottawa needs only one point from its final game to secure a spot.

Boston also could clinch a berth with a win over the Lightning and two Penguins losses, but Pittsburgh needs only one victory to clinch a berth and plays the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres to end the regular season.

The Red Wings and Islanders clinched playoff berths after Boston’s loss Thursday. Detroit’s 24 straight playoff appearances is the longest active streak of the four major North American sports leagues.

Here are the teams that secured a spot and those that were eliminated, followed by a complete update of the playoff races in both conferences after Thursday’s action.

Clinched: Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets
Eliminated: Los Angeles Kings

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westThumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images. Playoff graphics via Twitter/Ech28

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