Not many potential series look ‘easy’ this year:

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2021-22 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

In the NHL, fans are accustomed to Cinderella runs. It’s fair to call certain outcomes “upsets,” but these upsets happen often enough that it’s almost an upset when all of the favorites succeed.

(In fact, I’d argue that it’s a shame that we don’t really get to see two powerhouse favorites slug it out in a Stanley Cup Final all that often.)

That said, most postseasons include teams that “should not be there.” To be clear: some of the teams who seemingly do not belong end up making deep runs. The 2020-21 Canadiens rank as the most immediate example. It’s far too easy to forget that the Habs really did seem to make the postseason by default (the North Division’s lower ranks were dreadful). If you want to take a snapshot of Montreal’s 2020-21 mediocrity, consider that they allowed nine more goals than they scored.

Looking at the potential 2021-22 playoff field, it’s striking that just about every playoff team… belongs there?

It’s most obvious in the Eastern Conference. Remarkably, the eight-team East playoff field was already set by April 17.

Obviously, there’s still a serious standings gap between the best of the best, and the wild-card ranks. But this is truly a year where it really should not be: that: much of an embarrassment to lose in the first round.

If someone told you that the Bruins, Penguins, or Capitals went deep into the playoffs, would you find that unthinkable? All three of those teams are hovering around the wild-card spots, but each presents scenarios where they can put things together. And they wouldn’t even need a 2010 Jaroslav Halak-type run of incredible goaltending to steal series wins.

[Plenty of powerful contenders topping PHT’s Power Rankings]

Out West, we’ve seen the rise of teams like the Blues, Wild, and Oilers. Beyond the powerful Flames and the juggernaut Avalanche, likely 2/3 divisional matchups feature strong teams.

Even the teams who are shakier still bring more to the table that most lower first-round fodder.

In an NHL enamored by parity, this season’s marked by severe differences between the “haves” the “have-nots.” It could be fascinating to see what happens in a postseasons unusually bereft in such “have-nots.”

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY: (sorted by percentage points)

ATLANTIC DIVISION:
Panthers Vs. Capitals:
Maple Leafs Vs. Lightning:

METROPOLITAN DIVISION:
Hurricanes Vs. Bruins:
Rangers Vs. Penguins:

CENTRAL DIVISION:
Avalanche Vs. Stars:
Wild vs. Blues:

PACIFIC DIVISION:
Flames Vs. Predators:
Oilers vs. Kings:

TODAY’S KEY GAMES:

Rangers Vs. Bruins, 3 pm ET:
Predators vs. Lightning, 7 pm ET:
Maple Leafs Vs. Panthers, 7 pm ET:
Canucks Vs. Flames, 10 pm ET:

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES: (via MoneyPuck:)

Panthers – clinched No. 1 seed in Eastern Conference:
Maple Leafs – clinched:
Lightning – clinched:
Bruins – clinched:
Red Wings – eliminated:
Sabers – eliminated:
Senators – eliminated:
Canadiens – eliminated:

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES: (via MoneyPuck:)

Hurricanes – clinched:
Rangers – clinched:
Penguins – clinched:
Capitals – clinched:
Islanders – eliminated:
Blue Jackets – eliminated:
Flyers – eliminated:
Devils – eliminated:

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES: (via MoneyPuck:)

Avalanche – clinched No. 1 seed in Western Conference:
Wild – clinched:
Blues – clinched:
Predators – 97%
Stars – 72.8%
Jets – eliminated:
Blackhawks – eliminated:
Coyotes – eliminated:

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES: (via MoneyPuck:)

Flames – clinched Pacific Division:
Oilers – clinched:
Kings – 96.8%
Golden Knights – 31.9%
Canucks – 1.5%
Ducks – eliminated:
Sharks – eliminated:
Kraken – eliminated:

draft lottery:

Getty Images:

DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE: (via Tankathon:)

18.5% – Coyotes:
13.5% – Canadians:
11.5% – Cracked:
9.5% – Flyers:
8.5% – Devils:
7.5% – Blackhawks (* conditional)
6.5% – Senators:
6.0% – Red Wings:
5.0% – Sabers:
3.5% – Sharks:
3.0% – Ducks:
2.5% – Blue Jackets:
2.0% – Jets:
1.5% – Islanders:
0.5% – Canucks:
0.5% – Golden Knights (* conditional)

“Beginning this season there will be a limit on the total number of selections (10) a team participating in the lottery can move up in the event it wins one of the lottery draws, a change announced by the NHL on March 23, 2021. Only the top 11 seeds will be eligible to receive the No. 1 selection in the 2022 draft. ”

The 2022 NHL Draft Lottery drawing will be held May 10:

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE:

Connor McDavid, Oilers – 116 points:
Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers – 113:
Johnny Gaudreau, Flames – 109:
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 107:
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 102:
Kirill Kaprizov, Wild – 101:
Matthew Tkachuk, Flames -100:

ROCKET RICHARD RACE:

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 58 goals:
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 54:
Chris Kreider, Rangers – 51:
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 50:
Kirill Kaprizov, Wild – 45:
Kyle Connor, Jets – 44:
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 43:

James O’Brien: is a writer for: Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports:. Drop him a line at: phtblog@nbcsports.com: or follow him on Twitter: @cyclelikesedins:.

NHL Push for the Playoffs: Not many potential series look ‘easy’ this year originally appeared on NBCSports.com:

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