NHL playoff picture: Caps, Flyers battle to stay on edge of the Eastern bubble


Plus, Detroit tries to move up the ladder against the Blackhawks, while the Bruins make up a game in hand on Montreal.

Last night showed off why the Eastern Conference is the most frustrating thing on earth. The seventh, eighth and ninth place teams (New Jersey and the New York teams) all lost, while the tenth and 11th (Carolina, Washington) seeds both won, and the 12th place team (Buffalo) got a point. Even the Flyers got two points. The Rangers and Islanders missed a serious chance to gain ground on the Devils (who got another maddening loser point that should've been two), and the lower bubble teams in the East, creating more and more confusion and consternation for both teams' fans.

In the Western Conference, none of the top eight changed, but their positions did. The Wild leapfrogged the Canucks on a games played tiebreaker to take back the top spot in the Northwest Division and third seed. Meanwhile, San Jose won and jumped from seventh to sixth. Edmonton moved up to tenth and one point away from eighth with a victory, while loser points kept Nashville and Phoenix from falling back too far.

Here are the current playoff standings after Saturday's games:

Eastern Conference

Currently in Playoff Position:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 56 points (36 games played)

2. Montreal Canadiens, 49 points (34 GP)

3. Winnipeg Jets, 38 points (36 GP)

4. Boston Bruins, 46 points (33 GP)

5. Ottawa Senators, 44 points (35 GP)

6. Toronto Maple Leafs, 44 points (36 GP)

7. New Jersey Devils, 39 points (35 GP)

8. New York Rangers, 35 points (34 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. New York Islanders, 35 points (35 GP)

10. Carolina Hurricanes, 34 points (33 GP)

11. Washington Capitals, 33 points (34 GP)

12. Buffalo Sabres, 32 points (35 GP)

Western Conference

Currently in Playoff Position:

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 53 points (33 GP)

2. Anaheim Ducks, 50 points (34 GP)

3. Minnesota Wild, 44 points (34 GP)

4. Vancouver Canucks, 44 points (35 GP)

5. Los Angeles Kings, 41 points (34 GP)

6. San Jose Sharks, 40 points (34 GP)

7. Detroit Red Wings, 39 points (34 GP)

8. St. Louis Blues, 36 points (33 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. Dallas Stars, 35 points (33 GP)

10. Edmonton Oilers, 35 points (34 GP)

11. Nashville Predators, 35 points (35 GP)

12. Columbus Blue Jackets, 35 points (35 GP)

13. Phoenix Coyotes, 34 points (35 GP)

Here are the games scheduled for Sunday that could directly affect playoff positioning:

Chicago vs. Detroit, 12:30 p.m. ET

Little by little, teams who aren't Anaheim have started to show up in the distance behind the Blackhawks. Not that it's all too threatening to the Western Conference's top team, but still, Minnesota and Vancouver are nine points back now. It'd be nice to keep the separation as much as possible. With a victory, Detroit ties Los Angeles for fifth place in the Western Conference and gives them six points of separation from ninth place.

Anaheim vs. Columbus, 6 p.m. ET

The Ducks can move back within one point of the Blackhawks should Chicago lose and Anaheim get a win on the road in Ohio. It would also bring their Pacific Division lead over the Kings back to 11 points, should the Kings get a 60-minute loss. Simple task for the Blue Jackets: win, and with a Dallas loss, take sole possession of ninth place in the Western Conference. Lose, and you're stuck in 12th, with one or two more games played than every team you're chasing.

Los Angeles vs. Dallas, 6 p.m. ET

Here's a pretty large one in the scheme of the Western Conference race. Los Angeles can't move up or down regardless of result tonight, but a win puts them back within one point of the fourth-seeded Canucks. A win also keeps them seven points away from the nine line. Dallas can move back into the top eight with a victory, but won't fall further than ninth tonight, as they have a regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker on the Oilers.

Washington vs. Philadelphia, 6 p.m. ET

The Islanders and Rangers losing yesterday provides the Capitals with a big opportunity today. A win ties the two New York teams for eighth with 35 points. The games-played tiebreaker would keep them behind the Rangers in the standings, but the regulation/overtime wins tiebreak would put them ahead of the Islanders and in ninth place. Who'd have seen that coming two weeks ago? Meanwhile, a 60-minute victory for the Flyers would actually put them ahead of the Capitals on the magical third tiebreaker (number of points in games between the two teams) and into the 11th spot, two points back of eighth. The Flyers are somehow still in this!

Boston vs. Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. ET

Somehow, Buffalo is still in it, too! A win for the Sabres tonight and a Capitals loss puts them in eleventh, behind the Hurricanes on the games played tiebreaker. A loss keeps them three points back and behind literally every team they're chasing on games played. Boston could really use a win tonight, since this is a game they have in hand on the Canadiens, who currently hold the top spot in the Northeast and second in the East.

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