Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2021 NHL postseason. There are 21 days left in the regular season and the races in each of the four divisions — the seven-team Scotia North Division and eight-team MassMutual East, Discover West and Honda Central — are tight. The top four teams in each of the four divisions reach the playoffs.
Here is a look at the NHL Standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.
About last night
There were seven games that had playoff implications on Tuesday.
Carolina Hurricanes 5, Dallas Stars 1: The Hurricanes kept their hold on first place in the Central and lead the second-place Florida Panthers by two points with two games in hand. The Stars missed an opportunity to move into a tie for fourth with the Nashville Predators. They are fifth, two points behind Nashville, with two games in hand.
Florida Panthers 7, Nashville Predators 4: The Panthers clinched a playoff berth and are one point ahead of the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Central. The Predators had a four-game point streak (3-0-1) end but stayed alone in fourth because the Stars lost.
Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Chicago Blackhawks 4: The Lightning clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight season. They are one point behind the Panthers with two games in hand and three behind the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks remained sixth in the Central, five points behind the Stars and seven behind the Predators with seven games to play.
Washington Capitals 1, New York Islanders 0: Playing without Alex Ovechkin (lower body) for the second straight game, the Capitals defeated the Islanders for the third straight time and moved back into first place in the East. Washington leads the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins by one point. The Islanders are in third place, one point ahead of the fourth-place Boston Bruins.
Boston Bruins 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 1: The Bruins moved to within one point of the Islanders for third in the East and stayed four ahead of the fifth-place New York Rangers. The Penguins dropped to second place with the regulation loss and the Capitals’ win against the Islanders. They lead the Islanders by four points.
New York Rangers 3, Buffalo Sabres 1: The Rangers won their third straight game to stay four points behind the Bruins for fourth and move five points behind the Islanders, who they will play Thursday and Saturday.
New Jersey Devils 6, Philadelphia Flyers 4: The Flyers fell 11 points behind the fourth-place Bruins with seven games to play.
If playoffs started Wednesday
Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Wednesday:
(1) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (4) Montreal Canadiens
(2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3) Winnipeg Jets
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (4) Boston Bruins
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (3) New York Islanders
(1) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (4) Nashville Predators
(2) Florida Panthers vs. (3) Tampa Bay Lightning
(1) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (4) St. Louis Blues
(2) Colorado Avalanche vs. (3) Minnesota Wild