The NHL All-Star break is typically when the playoff picture starts to gain clarity. It’s past the halfway post for the season, so by now, teams are who they are. Rarely do teams like last season’s Jordan Binnington-inspired St. Louis Blues have Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde-like turnaround going from worst to first.
The Blues’ miraculous second-half turnaround just to get into the playoffs included a 28-8-5 finish en route to claiming the franchise’s first ever championship.
This season, the standings are a little tighter than usual. As it stands, both conferences have 5 teams within 10 points of the respective wild card spots. The Pacific Division is completely up for grabs.
It’ll be an exciting race to April 4, the final day of the regular season. Between now and then, injuries will happen, overly hyped trade deadline deals will be made and the top 16 teams will make it to the dance. One thing is for sure, come the playoffs, it’s a whole new ball game… er, rather fresh sheet of ice. Anything can happen. But first, a team just needs to get in.
This list is just a snapshot in time. Games aren’t played on paper or using computer-generated formulas. Anything can still happen.
Statistical data provided by Moneypuck.com.
Teams with “A Snowball’s Chance” to Make the Playoffs
Detroit Red Wings
Chance of Making Playoffs: 0%
Current Pace: 57.3 points
No bueno. The Red Wings are the worst team in the NHL by a wide margin. They have a few pieces on their sinking ship, but need a lot of re-work before being a competitive team. Steve Yzerman has eight restricted free agents on his roster and faces a lot of decisions as the trade deadline nears. The golden prize may be Alexis Lafreniere.
New Jersey Devils
Chance of Making Playoffs: 0.2%
Current Pace: 74.9 points
Despite lofty preseason expectations, the Devils are a lock for the playoff lottery. Expect a sell-off of unrestricted free agents (Wayne Simmonds, Sami Vatanen and even captain Andy Greene if he waives his no-trade clause) and a recoup of draft capital.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 0.3%
Current Pace: 77 points
The Sens have promising young talent and are loaded with draft picks – two lottery picks (their own plus San Jose’s), plus three second-round picks and a high third-rounder.
It’s a good thing. They’ll need them because they’re not going anywhere this season.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 2.3%
Current Pace: 76.5 points
Goalie John Gibson can’t save this team. The Ducks are simply not playoff bound. Despite decent performances by Jakob Silfverberg, Adam Henrique, Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler, this team is a hot mess. Their penalty killing (24th overall) is awful and their power play (28th overall) is worse.
They may try to move pending UFA defenseman Michael Del Zotto and use his salary cap space to take on a bad contract while adding draft capital.
San Jose Sharks
Chance of Making Playoffs: 4.8%
Current Pace: 79 points
Surprisingly, the Sharks are on the outside looking in. A coaching change won’t make a difference. They’re closer to the Western Conference basement (5 points) than a wild card spot (11 points).
Los Angeles Kings
Chance of Making Playoffs: 5.2%
Current Pace: 79.5 points
The Kings have early tee times come the end of the season. They’ll likely try to sell off as many pending UFAs as possible, including Tyler Toffoli, Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, Derek Forbort and Ben Hutton.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 8.1%
Current Pace: 85.9 points
The Sabres seem destined to extend their league-worst playoff drought to nine seasons. Injuries to Jeff Skinner and Victor Olofsson and a few losing skids may be learning opportunities for the ever-positive head coach Ralph Krueger, but they’re not much-needed points in the standings.
With 9 out of 10 games at home after the break, the opportunity to make a run is right in front of them, but don’t hold your breath.
New York Rangers
Chance of Making Playoffs: 8.6%
Current Pace: 85.7 points
The Rangers are 11 points out of the second wild card spot, with five teams to leapfrog in order to qualify for the playoffs.
Barring a highly unlikely push, the Rangers will not be playing postseason hockey. There are just too many teams ahead of them to catch. Expect them to start selling assets in the coming weeks.
“With A Big Push and A Little Luck” Teams
Chance of Making Playoffs: 15%
Current Pace: 88.6 points
The Habs, sitting 10 points out of the last wild card spot, need to go on a tear to have a chance. Like the Sabres, after the break they have six of eight games at home to catch fire. They already have 11 picks at the draft and may not be shy of adding a player or two to improve their odds.
The addition of Ilya Kovalchuk and seeing his immediate contributions is fun, but he’s not enough to drag this team to the postseason.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 18%
Current Pace: 84.6 points
Oh, how the mighty Jets have fallen. Now clinging to playoff hopes, they’re a fraction of the team they were since making it to the Conference Final a few seasons ago.
Losing Dustin Byfuglien, top defensive center Adam Lowry and Bryan Little has put a drain on the team. They haven’t replaced the players they lost over the years and their system does not work for the team they have. That falls on Paul Maurice as much as it does on Kevin Cheveldayoff. Miss the playoffs and someone is likely losing his job.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 39.5%
Current Pace: 93.9 points
The biggest question swirling around the Flyers is the prognosis for Nolan Patrick and his return to the ice. Without him in the lineup, they’re lacking. With him, they’re so much better. The loss of Oskar Lindblom who was found to have a rare form of bone cancer and is lost for the remainder of the season was also a blow.
That said, the Flyers have 12 more points than this time last season. They’re on pace for 98 points, 16 more than they collected a year ago. Much of that credit goes to the Flyers’ new coach, Alain Vigneault.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 39.7%
Current Pace: 88.6 points
With a rash of injuries, the Blackhawks were nowhere near playoff caliber in December. But they’ve stormed back into wild card contention thanks to timely goal scoring and great defense.
Seven of the Blackhawks’ first eight games after the All-Star break are on the road, all against playoff contenders. If they don’t fizzle out after that stretch, there’s hope.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 46%
Current Pace: 89.1 points
The Wild are every bit of a wild… card. Sometimes they’re great, other times terrible. Problem is they’re not great enough.
“Flip A Coin” Teams
Chance of Making Playoffs: 51.3%
Current Pace: 89.9 points
The Coyotes are in the thick of a race for a spot in the West, where five teams are separated by a point or two.
The return of starting goalie Darcy Kuemper could be all that’s needed to push this team into the postseason.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 62.5%
Current Pace: 92 points
The Predators are another team on the playoff bubble. In hopes of sparking a change, they dismissed head coach Peter Laviolette and replaced him with John Hynes. Will that be enough?
Toronto Maple Leafs
Chance of Making Playoffs: 62.8%
Current Pace: 96.6 points
Does rookie bench boss Sheldon Keefe have the magic to rally his squad into the postseason? The Maple Leafs were 9-10-4 under Mike Babcock but have gone 16-6-2 with Keefe.
They’re still light on defense and need better goaltending from Frederik Andersen after the break.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Chance of Making Playoffs: 63.2%
Current Pace: 97.1 points
The Blue Jackets got a taste of success last season by dismissing the heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. They currently occupy a wild card spot. Their balanced attack includes 5 players with 11 or more goals.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 65.7%
Current Pace: 92 points
The Canucks are in the thick of a playoff hunt. They could even win their division. Should injuries strike, they could fall out of contention quickly. It’s too soon to tell where they’ll land.
Vegas Golden Knights
Chance of Making Playoffs: 70.4%
Current Pace: 92.6 points
After getting an absurdly early taste of the Stanley Cup Final in their first season in the NHL, Bill Foley wants to win it all. How else can one explain the dismissal of Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant.
Good Bets to Make the Playoffs
New York Islanders
Chance of Making Playoffs: 71.7%
Current Pace: 99 points
After an inspiring and surprising 15-0-2 run this season, the Isles have played .500 hockey. Their cushion for a playoff berth is slowly evaporating.
They’re a good, better-than-average team that’s likely playoff bound. Combine their never-give-up work ethic, grinding style and Barry Trotz’s magic and they could be a tough out if they get in.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 72.3%
Current Pace: 98.6 points
The Hurricanes currently occupy the final wild card slot in the Eastern Conference by a single point. Their plus-27 goal differential is fifth best in the conference and their home record is the fourth best. They’ll need to pick up the pace to stay in the dance.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 75.3%
Current Pace: 93.5 points
Connor McDavid is incredible, but he can’t play 60 minutes a game. The Oilers are in the thick of the race in the competitive Pacific Division. They’ve only made the postseason once in the previous 13 seasons.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 78.9%
Current Pace: 99.5 points
The Panthers have no issues filling the net, scoring a league-best 3.67 goals-for-per-game. With some better defense, they could be a formidable team in the playoffs. They sit third in the Atlantic Division, clinging to a playoff spot.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 79.1%
Current Pace: 94.7 points
Matthew Tkachuk and Mark Giordano are the leaders of this team, but it’s the surprising play of netminder David Rittich that’s keeping the Flames in playoff contention.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 82.6%
Current Pace: 96 points
Goal scoring continues to be an issue with the Stars. Team leader Tyler Seguin isn’t in the top 70 scorers in the league.
In all, they’re 27th in goals-per-game but manage to overcome that with a brick wall of defense. Their blue line is deep and their netminding is solid, ranking them first in goals-against per game.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 90.3%
Current Pace: 103.6 points
The Penguins are a threat again despite injuries this season that have sidelined Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They’re starting to resemble the team that won back-to-back Cups in 2015-16 and 2016-17. They’re a legitimate threat to go deep.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Chance of Making Playoffs: 92.9%
Current Pace: 103.6 points
After a sluggish start, the high-flying Bolts have found their game and are back on track to being the team that won the President’s Trophy last season. Their midseason resurgence included 10 wins in 11 games.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 97.1%
Current Pace: 106.2 points
It’s easy to forget that the Bruins lost in Game 7 to the St. Louis Blues on home ice last season. The Bruins 2018-19 run included series wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes. Despite injuries to Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy, and a recent slump in which the team lost eight of nine, Don Sweeney’s team remains atop the Atlantic Division and is headed for their fourth-consecutive postseason.
When healthy, the team has terrific depth and a sound “next man up” mentality that isn’t just a cliché. The goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak continues to be one of the best in the NHL. Their mix of youth and experience bodes well for a deep playoff run.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 97.4%
Current Pace: 102.1 points
Playoff-bound, the Avalanche are the No. 2 team in the West behind only the Blues. They’re a formidable team with the most salary cap room in the NHL, giving them the chance to even add a piece or two for more depth down the stretch.
Chance of Making Playoffs: 99.3%
Current Pace: 111.4 points
The Capitals are deep, physical and are loaded with skill. With eight goals in his last three games, Alex Ovechkin is on a tear, destined for his ninth 50-goal season. The Caps are in, primed for a follow-up run to their 2018 Stanley Cup championship.
St. Louis Blues
Chance of Making Playoffs: 99.7%
Current Pace: 108.4 points
The reigning Stanley Cup champions will definitely be back to defend their title.
With a deep blue line, the only looming question is when winger Vladimir Tarasenko returns from shoulder surgery and the cap implications associated with him that may influence general manager Doug Armstrong’s trade deadline activity.
Jeff has been covering the NHL for over a decade for various sites. He’s been with The Hockey Writers as a lead Sabres writer three years, while also writing a satire column called “Off the Crossbar.”