The Nashville Predators are on the verge of clinching the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division as the NHL playoff races come to a close in the final days of the 56-game regular season.
There’s relatively little drama as the regular season concludes. Only four playoff spots remain up for grabs, and the Dallas Stars may be the only team on the outside that has a realistic path to snagging a berth.
Nashville can clinch postseason berth on Wednesday
Heading into Wednesday’s games, Nashville holds a four-point lead over Dallas for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division. The Predators have three games remaining, while the Stars will play four more times.
Technically, that leaves Nashville with a magic number of five points to clinch that playoff spot. But if the Predators beat the Blue Jackets on Wednesday, while the Stars fall to the Tampa Bay Lightning in regulation, that will be enough to end the race, as Nashville will then also clinch an edge in the first tiebreaker – regulation wins.
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) May 5, 2021
The Predators come into Wednesday night’s game as a -188 favorite over Columbus (+158), according to FanDuel Sportsbook, while Dallas (+142) faces a tough test against Tampa Bay (-168).
Even if Nashville doesn’t clinch on Wednesday night, however, they clearly have the inside track to the playoffs. Analytics site MoneyPuck.com gives the Predators a 92.3% chance of reaching the postseason, while Dallas has just a 7.7% shot at the playoffs.
Still, the Stars remain optimistic that they can find a way to extend their season.
“We keep preaching that if we battle hard, we give ourselves a chance to win every night,” Stars coach Rick Bowness told reporters. “It’s a little bit more of a challenge, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. We’re very positive here and we’re going to keep pushing the positive.”
FanDuel lists the Predators as a -1100 pick to make the NHL playoffs this year, while offering +700 that Nashville will fall short.
Other NHL playoff races all but decided
The other NHL playoff races don’t feature as much drama, though some teams still have something to play for down the stretch.
In a broad sense, there’s still a race in the West Division, but it likely won’t last long. The St. Louis Blues hold a five-point lead over the Arizona Coyotes and a nine-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for the fourth postseason berth. To make matters worse for the Coyotes, they will play just three more times, while both St. Louis and Los Angeles have six games remaining.
That adds up to a massive advantage for the Blues, who should make the playoffs barring a complete collapse. MoneyPuck.com gives St. Louis a 99.5% chance of reaching the postseason, with Arizona (0.3%) and Los Angeles (0.2%) clinging to faint hopes.
The all-Canadian North Division still has plenty of games left to play, but there’s very little chance of anything changing down the stretch. The Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens are in third and fourth places, both with 57 points and five games to play. The Calgary Flames sit 10 points back with six games to play, while last-place Vancouver remains mathematically alive, down 16 points, but with nine games left.
Both Winnipeg (99.2%) and Montreal (98.7%) sit comfortably in what should be guaranteed playoff spots, while MoneyPuck gives the Flames just a 2.2% chance of making a miraculous run to the postseason.