Updated NHL playoff standings, latest first-round scenarios for Bruins


Updated playoff standings, latest first-round scenarios for Bruins originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The 2021-22 NHL regular season ends this week, and there’s still a lot to be determined in the playoff race, particularly in the Eastern Conference.

Third place in both the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions remain up for grabs, and both wild card spots are not set in stone yet, either.

Ranking Bruins’ potential first-round opponents in 2022 playoffs

The Boston Bruins were in a rough patch earlier this month, but they have bounced back in impressive fashion with four wins in their last five games, including a strong showing this weekend by beating a quality New York Rangers team on Saturday and the rival Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.

Boston also had a couple important players return to the lineup after battling injuries, including goalie Linus Ullmark, right winger David Pastrnak and defenseman Hampus Lindholm.

It’s going to be an exciting final week of the regular season.

Here’s an overview of where the Bruins sit in the playoff race after a weekend sweep.

Eastern Conference Standings

Atlantic Division

Team

GP

WL-OTL

PTS

RO

1st

Florida Panthers

79

57-16-6

120

54

2nd

Toronto Maple Leafs

80

52-21-7

111

49

3rd

Tampa Bay Lightning

79

49-22-8

106

47

4th

Boston Bruins

79

49-25-5

103

47

The Bruins are still in the mix for the third playoff spot in the division, but it’s definitely an uphill climb. The Lightning have a 3-point lead on the B’s with each team still to play three games this week.

Here are the remaining schedules for these teams:

The Lightning have an easier schedule — playing three non-playoff opponents as opposed to the Bruins, who have to play two of the top teams in the league and a pesky Sabres squad to end the regular season.

There’s little incentive for the Lightning to drop into the wild card spots. Therefore, unless the Lightning surprisingly falter this week, it’s hard to envision them losing their grip on the third place in the Atlantic.

Wild Card

The Bruins now have a 3-point cushion in the wild card race. It’s absolutely critical to avoid the second wild card spot because that team is locked in to face the top-seed Florida Panthers in Round 1.

The Panthers, who play the Bruins on Tuesday night at TD Garden, are on an absolute tear as the playoffs near. Florida is 16-2-0 in its last 18 games with an offense that is loaded with depth and high-end talent. The Panthers’ plus-100 goal differential is 20 higher than the next-best team.

The first wild card team most likely will play the Carolina Hurricanes. The New York Rangers caught the Hurricanes in the Metropolitan Division standings last week but they’ve struggled over the last few days. Carolina now has a 4-point lead over New York and controls its destiny in the division race.

Playing a Hurricanes team with a starting goalie in Frederik Andersen who’s battling injury is a much more favorable first-round matchup for the Bruins than facing a red-hot Panthers juggernaut.

Projected Finish

The Bruins’ most likely final position remains the first wild card spot. The Athletic’s predictive model projects the B’s to finish with 106 points — one ahead of the Capitals in the wild card race and three behind the Lightning for third place in the Atlantic.

The model also predicts the Bruins will play the Hurricanes in Round 1. This scenario, as we’ve explained before, is the ideal one for the Bruins. The Hurricanes are really good but not as explosive as the Panthers. If the Bruins beat the Hurricanes, they’d play the Rangers, Penguins or Capitals in the second round. All three of those teams are much more favorable Round 2 matchups compared to the Panthers, Lightning and Leafs.

The Bruins could still finish third in the Atlantic or in either one of the wild card spots. They’d be lucky if the standings didn’t change much at all from now to the end of the week.



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