NHL playoff picture: Sharks, Blues can clinch spots with wins

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

A big evening for St. Louis, San Jose, Columbus and Dallas as the Western Conference picture gets simpler and more complicated.

Half of the Stanley Cup Playoff entrants have clinched their berths as of Sunday morning.

In the Eastern Conference, Toronto filled out their spot for April 30 and beyond with a victory over the Senators, who still have some work to do. The Islanders inched closer to clinching with a shootout win in Winnipeg, who got within one point of the Rangers, but could have truly used two. That was especially true since the Capitals demolished the Habs on home ice, opening up a three-point lead on the Jets with three games to go. Montreal and Boston both lost, keeping their spots in the Northeast Division unchanged. Finally, Pittsburgh clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a victory over the aforementioned Bruins.

Out West, Vancouver and Los Angeles both clinched spots. The Kings didn't even play, but got in after the Red Wings fell in a shootout to the Canucks, who clinched just by getting to overtime. Detroit moved within one point of eighth-seeded Columbus. The Red Wings, however, now only have one game in hand on the Blue Jackets. Only two games in the Western Conference tonight, so why not mention that the Coyotes pulled within three points of eighth by getting a shootout victory over the Blackhawks? Anyone beating the Hawks is news, I suppose.

The following are your NHL Playoff standings headed into today.

Eastern Conference

Clinched Playoff Spot:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 68 points (44 games played)

2. Montreal Canadiens, 59 points (45 GP)

4. Boston Bruins, 57 points (43 GP)

5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 55 points (45 GP)

Currently in Playoff Position:

3. Washington Capitals, 52 points (45 GP)

6. New York Islanders, 53 points (45 GP)

7. Ottawa Senators, 52 points (44 GP)

8. New York Rangers, 50 points (44 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. Winnipeg Jets, 49 points (45 GP)

10. New Jersey Devils, 44 points (44 GP)

Western Conference

Clinched Playoff Spot:

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 73 points (44 GP)

2. Anaheim Ducks, 60 points (44 GP)

3. Vancouver Canucks, 57 points (45 GP)

4. Los Angeles Kings, 55 points (44 GP)

Currently in Playoff Position:

5. San Jose Sharks, 55 points (44 GP)

6. St. Louis Blues, 54 points (44 GP)

7. Minnesota Wild, 51 points (44 GP)

8. Columbus Blue Jackets, 49 points (45 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. Detroit Red Wings, 48 points (44 GP)

10. Dallas Stars, 47 points (44 GP)

11. Phoenix Coyotes, 46 points (44 GP)

12. Edmonton Oilers, 41 points (43 GP)

Here are Sunday's games that could directly affect the playoff picture:

Florida vs. Boston, 12:30 p.m. ET

Florida is finishing off a four-game road trip in which they've been out-scored 17-5 in the first three, so the Bruins have to look at this game as two points that should be in the bag. The Bruins, yet again, can take the top spot in the Northeast Division with a victory. Oh, and it keeps away those pesky Maple Leafs, who are now two points back of Boston. What's at stake for Florida? A 60-minute loss and a Colorado win clinches the Panthers' top spot in the lottery for the 2013 NHL Draft. Fun!

New Jersey vs. NY Rangers, 3 p.m. ET

The Devils are out of this if they lose a point or if the Rangers get two at some point in the teams' last four games. But hey, weirder stuff has happened, and the Devils play the Rangers twice in the next six days. It's fairly simple, however: Rangers win and eliminate the Devils and essentially force Winnipeg to win out to prevent New York from missing the postseason. Rangers lose and the Devils get a bonus life, and Winnipeg gets a reach shot at making this thing.

Calgary vs. Minnesota, 6 p.m. ET

Not much left to play for in Calgary, since they will neither be making the playoffs or coming close to a top chance at the No. 1 draft pick. The Wild, however, really could use a win here. The Red Wings and Stars max out at 56 points, so a win would put the Wild that much closer to the postseason. If they lose and Dallas and Columbus win, they're in considerable danger headed into the last week of the season.

St. Louis vs. Colorado, 8 p.m. ET

Again, Colorado falls out of the running for the top chance to win the Draft Lottery with a victory and a Florida loss. This is about St. Louis, however, who clinches a playoff spot with a regulation win. Anything other than that and they'll have to wait it out. St. Louis could also potentially move up as high as fourth in the Western Conference, but both Los Angeles and San Jose would have to lose tonight.

Columbus vs. San Jose, 8 p.m. ET

The two biggest games of Sunday take place in California. The Blue Jackets need a win, any kind of win, to keep separation between themselves and their main chasers (Detroit and Dallas). If Dallas loses tonight and Columbus wins, this could prove to be one of the biggest nights in franchise history. San Jose, on the other hand, can clinch a playoff berth with a victory. That would certainly be a satisfying conclusion to a crazy roller coaster ride of a season out in the bay area.

Anaheim vs. Edmonton, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Oilers are only in the race because they can still max out at 53 points and they have five games left. A 60-minute loss, coupled with a Columbus win, eliminates them. Anaheim moves within a point of clinching the No. 2 seed should they beat the Oilers.

Dallas vs. Los Angeles, 9 p.m. ET

Second-biggest game of the night. Dallas wins, and they move into the eighth seed if Columbus loses in 60 minutes. Any kind of point puts them ahead of Detroit at the end of the day. Los Angeles can move within shouting distance of the Pacific Division lead with a win and a Ducks loss. Anaheim's two-game stretch with the Oilers, however, doesn't give them much more than a prayer at it. Nice to have something to play for in the last week.

More in the NHL:

Bruins fans sing emotional national anthem

Six (!) outdoor games in 2014

Jimmy Howard’s case for the Vezina

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