Decisions, Decisions: Division Winners, NHL Playoff First Round Matchups Still To Be Determined


By NHL Public Relations

April 13, 2023

With just two more nights and 17 games of regular-season action left in 2022-23, the NHL enters a loaded 15-game slate still looking to determine seven of eight First Round matchups and three division winners.

From the 7 p.m. ET starts to ESPN’s Golden Knights-Kraken broadcast at 10:30 p.m. ET, there will be games that impact playoff positioning from start to finish Thursday.


Division Crowns Still Up For Grabs

The 2023 Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins are the only team to have clinched their division thus far, but the Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Division crowns are still up for grabs along with the Western Conference title.

 * The Hurricanes (51-21-9, 111 points) control their own destiny – a win in any fashion will secure them the Metropolitan Division title. They could also end the season as the division’s No. 1 seed if they get one point AND the Devils lose to the Capitals in any fashion, OR if the Devils lose in regulation. 

* The Devils (51-22-8, 110 points), on the other hand, can grab the Metropolitan Division title if they defeat the Capitals in any fashion AND the Hurricanes lose to the Panthers in any fashion, OR if they get one point vs. the Capitals AND the Hurricanes lose to the Panthers in regulation.

* Should Vegas (50-22-9, 109) salvage at least one point from its matchup Thursday, it will capture its third division title in the franchise’s six-year history.

The Golden Knights would clinch No. 1 in the Pacific if the Oilers lose to the Sharks in any fashion.

The second-place Oilers (49-23-9, 107 points) also have a shot through the regulation wins tiebreaker if they win in any fashion and the Golden Knights lose in regulation.

The winner of the Pacific Division will also claim top spot in the Western Conference.

* The Central Division has been a three-team race for months, with Colorado, Dallas and Minnesota all holding the top seed at some point since April 1.

Entering play today, it will all come down to the defending champion Avalanche (49-24-7, 105 points), who have two games remaining, and the Stars (46-21-14, 106 points), who conclude their season tonight.

Colorado will look to claim their division title for three consecutive seasons for the first time since a nine-season run from 1994-95 to 2002-03, while the Stars will look to finish the campaign as their division’s top seed for the first time in seven years (2015-16 Central Division).

* The Avalanche will clinch the Central Division if they defeat the Jets in any fashion AND the Stars lose to the Blues in regulation. For the Stars, they will clinch the Central Division if they defeat the Blues in any fashion AND the Avalanche lose to the Jets in any fashion, OR if they get one point vs. the Blues AND the Avalanche lose to the Jets in regulation.

* Should none of the scenarios presented above materialize, the battle for the Central Division crown will extend to the final day of the season Friday, when the Avalanche head to Nashville.  

NHL Playoff First Round Matchups??

Eight First Round matchups will commence next week, but for seven of those series, the question remains: which teams will be facing off against one another?

With just two days remaining in the regular season, the only confirmed matchup is the Maple Leafs-Lightning. There are still 10 seeds that could be claimed by two or more different teams heading into Thursday.

* Two of tonight’s games could be First Round matchups once the regular-season dust settles: Carolina-Florida (7 p.m. ET on BSSO, BSFL, TVAS) and Vegas-Seattle (10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).

* A preview of a potential First Round matchup between the two newest NHL franchises – the Golden Knights and Kraken – will air at 10:30 p.m. ET as the second half of an ESPN doubleheader.

Seattle will start their postseason in Vegas if they finish third in the Pacific Division and the Golden Knights finish as the division’s No. 2 seed.

* The Hurricanes have a number of potential opponents in the opening round of the 2023 postseason, including the Panthers, should the club finish atop the Metropolitan Division. Carolina and Florida, who have the second- and fifth-most regular-season wins since the start of the 2021-22 season, have never met in a playoff series.

Should Carolina finish No. 2, it would tee up the second straight postseason to feature the Hurricanes facing off against the Rangers after the two clubs clashed in the 2022 Second Round and ended in a New York Game 7 victory. All-time, the Hurricanes and Rangers have split their two playoff series meetings.

The Hurricanes could also end up facing the Islanders for the second time (4-0 W in 2019 R2).

* The Devils, who have the longest gap between playoff appearances among teams that have clinched so far in 2023 (four years), could face the Rangers or Panthers in the opening round.

Both the Rangers and Panthers would mark the franchise’s first playoff series against that opponent since 2012, when New Jersey triumphed over Florida in the Conference Quarterfinals via a double overtime goal by Adam Henrique before facing New York in the Conference Finals – where Henrique once again clinched the series in the extra frame but this time in Game 6.

Source: NHL Morning Skate – April 13, 2023

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