The Bruins clinched the Presidents’ Trophy and the top seed in the Eastern Conference, which means Boston fans can take a peek at who will be the team’s first-round opponent in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Jim Montgomery will have his team tuned up for the playoffs, but for fans who haven’t been paying attention to the wild-card race in the Eastern Conference, it’s been a tight one.
The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins would be in the playoffs if the season ended after Thursday’s games with 87 and 84 points, respectively.
New York seems safe to take the top wild-card spot, but it has to play teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning twice, the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals in the rest of its schedule. If the Islanders can get enough points in their final six games, their position should be safe.
A first-round matchup against Sidney Crosby would be exciting, but Pittsburgh has multiple teams behind it, and the B’s play the Penguins on Saturday, so Boston could hurt their playoff chances with a win. Pittsburgh also has teams like the New Jersey Devils, Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings left on its schedule, so a slip-up means opportunity for other playoff contenders.
As of Friday morning, the Florida Panthers have 83 points but already have played 76 games. They have teams like the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Capitals and Hurricanes left on their schedule.
The Senators have made a late push for a playoff spot with seven games left on their schedule with 79 points. They’ll have a tough schedule with teams like Toronto, Carolina, which they play twice, Florida, Tampa Bay and Buffalo.
The Sabres could make things interesting in the final weeks of the regular season. They have 77 points with nine games left to play. But Buffalo has to play the New York Rangers twice, Florida, Detroit, Carolina New Jersey and Ottawa.
The Capitals and Red Wings mathematically still are alive for the playoffs, but they were sellers at the trade deadline and arguably have the hardest schedules out of other teams vying for a playoff spot, so they shouldn’t come that close to challenging the Penguins.
The marquee head-to-head matchups will be must-see for those fan bases and for Bruins fans as Boston awaits the end of the regular season and the start of its run to the Stanley Cup.