NHL playoff picture: Bruins, Canadiens battling for Northeast division

Jared Wickerham

A slew of games on Monday will have a direct impact on the standings, as the postseason nears and time runs out for teams fighting for playoff positioning.

Only three games on the schedule for the NHL on Sunday yet all three games had a direct effect on the playoff race, as just a handful of games remain for teams fighting for their postseason lives.

The Blues lost to the dominant Chicago Blackhawks, despite a spirited and physical effort, keeping St. Louis just three points ahead of Dallas and just one point in front of Minnesota and Detroit at the tail end of the Western Conference standings. The Red Wings were able to jump back into a playoff spot with a convincing 3-0 shutout win of the hapless Nashville Predators, with Detroit continuing to take advantage of a relatively easy schedule to finish out the season.

Perhaps the biggest news of the day was that the Buffalo Sabres jumped right back into the conversation with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, their second straight victory and getting the team to 5-3-2 in their past ten games. The Sabres, who have played the most games of any team in the NHL, have just five games remaining to make up four points in the standings.

A long shot? Absolutely. But certainly doable -- at least technically.

Here's a look at the playoff standings after Sunday's games.

Eastern Conference

Clinched Playoff Spot:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 64 points (42 games played)

2. Montreal Canadiens, 57 points (41 GP)

Currently in Playoff Position:

3. Washington Capitals, 48 points (42 GP)

4. Boston Bruins, 56 points (41 GP)

5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 51 points (41 GP)

6. Ottawa Senators, 48 points (41 GP)

7. New York Islanders, 47 points (42 GP)

8. New York Rangers, 46 points (41 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. Winnipeg Jets, 44 points (42 GP)

10. Buffalo Sabres, 42 points (43 GP)

Western Conference

Clinched Playoff Spot:

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 68 points (41 GP)

2. Anaheim Ducks, 59 points (42 GP)

Currently in Playoff Position:

3. Vancouver Canucks, 52 points (41 GP)

4. Los Angeles Kings, 52 points (42 GP)

5. San Jose Sharks, 49 points (41 GP)

6. St. Louis Blues, 48 points (41 GP)

7. Minnesota Wild, 47 points (41 GP)

8. Detroit Red Wings, 47 points (42 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. Dallas Stars, 45 points (41 GP)

10. Columbus Blue Jackets, 45 points (42 GP)

11. Phoenix Coyotes, 43 points (41 GP)

Here are Monday's matchups that could directly affect playoff positioning.

Ottawa Senators at Boston Bruins - 7 p.m. ET

The Boston Bruins are in a dog fight with the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Northeast division, yet have now lost two straight games and show some alarming signs of slowing down as the postseason approaches. Injuries have stolen two very important players for the team and no amount of Jaromir Jagr seems to be enough to overcome. Will that change on Monday?

Philadelphia Flyers at Montreal Canadiens - 7:30 p.m. ET

Same as above; the Canadiens are attempting to hold off the Bruins for the division lead and No. 2 in the conference; there's a good reason these teams don't want to enter the postseason in the middle of the pack in the playoff standings, no matter how great a Montreal-Toronto matchup would be for ratings.

Dallas Stars at Chicago Blackhawks - 8 p.m. ET

The Dallas Stars are attempting to do the impossible, raging from the dregs of the Western Conference to make the postseason after a trade deadline firesale. Dallas has won five straight games and now goes for a sixth against the Blackhawks, who handily embarrassed the Stars 8-1 back on March 16.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Colorado Avalanche - 9 p.m. ET

The Blue Jackets are attempting the same as the Stars, yet have a much easier path to the postseason. That includes Monday's game against the worst team in the NHL, who actually won their last game. Perhaps there's some pride left in Colorado after all.

Minnesota Wild at Calgary Flames - 9 p.m. ET

The Wild are just 3-6-1 in their last ten games and sit in a precarious position after a fairly strong season. Just two points ahead of Dallas and Columbus in the playoff race, the Wild could potentially fall out of a playoff spot with a loss tonight and a Stars win.

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