Tank War Games: The Race For Auston Matthews

We are down to the last two weeks of the NHL’s regular season. While the Washington Capitals are on the verge of clinching the President’s trophy, several teams could finish in last place, thus earning the right to pick no worse than fourth in the upcoming draft.

Entering Saturday’s action, there are seven teams who are within five points of last. The Toronto Maple Leafs are at 65 points, while both the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks have 67 points. Columbus, Calgary, and Winnipeg each have 68 points, while Buffalo comes in with 72 points.

Mike Babcock and the Maple Leafs enter action Saturday leading in the race for last place. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With so precious few games left, each game matters in the standings. We will tell you which games will go the farthest towards deciding how the bottom of the standings will look. It starts on Saturday afternoon.

March 26-April 1

Will McDavid's Oilers finish in last? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Will McDavid’s Oilers finish in last? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Saturday March 26th

Boston at Toronto 7:00pm

Columbus at Nashville 8:00pm

Edmonton at Los Angeles 10:00pm

Chicago at Calgary 10:00pm

Sunday March 27th

Chicago at Vancouver 8:00pm

Monday March 28th

Winnipeg at Philadelphia 7:00pm

Columbus at Washington 7:00pm

Buffalo at Detroit 7:30pm

Toronto at Tampa Bay 7:30pm

Anaheim at Edmonton 9:00pm

Calgary at Arizona 10:00pm

Henrik Sedin
The Canucks have to play back-to-back against the Sharks this week. (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Tuesday March 29th

Buffalo at Pittsburgh 7:00pm

Toronto at Florida 7:30pm

San Jose at Vancouver 10:00pm

Wednesday March 30th

Ottawa at Winnipeg 7:30pm

Calgary at Anaheim 10:00pm

Thursday March 31st

Toronto at Buffalo 7:00pm

Columbus at NY Islanders 7:00pm

Calgary at Los Angeles 10:30pm

Vancouver at San Jose 10:30pm

Friday April 1st

Chicago at Winnipeg 8:00pm

Vancouver at Anaheim 10:00pm

What To Watch For

Calgary and Vancouver each have a murderer’s row schedule this week, with both teams having a heavy dose of playing California teams. At this time next week, they could occupy the bottom two spots in the league if they can’t win. The Oilers have two games against California teams, tonight against Los Angeles and Monday vs. Anaheim.

blue jackets
Don’t count the Blue Jackets out of the race for last. They have hard games and head-to-head against teams around them. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

The Leafs have to play the Florida stretch before a game against Buffalo on Thursday. Columbus has a rough stretch this week at Nashville, at Washington, and at NY Islanders. The Blue Jackets sit just 3 points out of last and could very easily lose these games.

April 2-April 9

Saturday April 2nd

Detroit at Toronto 7:00pm

Buffalo at NY Rangers 7:00pm

Columbus at Carolina 7:00pm

Calgary at Edmonton 10:00pm

Sunday April 3rd

Minnesota at Winnipeg 8:00pm

Monday April 4th

NY Rangers at Columbus 7:00pm

Florida at Toronto 7:30pm

Los Angeles at Vancouver 10:00pm

Paul Maurice, NHL, Winnipeg Jets, Jack Adams
The Jets finish the season in California. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Tuesday April 5th

Buffalo at New Jersey 7:00pm

Los Angeles at Calgary 9:00pm

Winnipeg at Anaheim 10:00pm

Wednesday April 6th

Vancouver at Edmonton 7:00pm

Columbus at Toronto 7:00pm

Thursday April 7th

Toronto at Philadelphia 7:00pm

Vancouver at Calgary 9:00pm

Winnipeg at San Jose 10:30pm

Friday April 8th

Columbus at Buffalo 7:00pm

Jordan Eberle and the Oilers play Vancouver on the last day in what could decide who wins the best odds at the lottery. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Saturday April 9th

Calgary at Minnesota 7:00pm

Toronto at New Jersey 7:00pm

Chicago at Columbus 7:00pm

Buffalo at NY Islanders 7:30pm

Edmonton at Vancouver 10:00pm

Winnipeg at Los Angeles 10:30pm

What To Watch For

There’s so much potential in this last week. There’s a good number of head-to-head games that will decide how this all plays out. The battle of Alberta on Hockey Night in Canada is huge. Can’t imagine one team wanting the other team to get the top pick. Wednesday night has two games of importance, with Canucks/Oilers and Blue Jackets/Maple Leafs playing at the same time.  Calgary/Vancouver finish with a pair against each other, while the Jets play in California the last three games.

The race for last is wide open. The Maple Leafs control their own destiny if they lose out. If not, Edmonton has played the most games as of this writing, and have the lowest points percentage of anyone. Happy tanking and may the odds ever be in your favor.

Want to see the up-to-the-minute NHL standings? Click here.