NHL Playoff Push: Can the Jets or Flames build momentum in the West?

With the trade deadline behind us, we turn our focus to the incoming playoff races, and seeding positions.

From now until the end of the regular season, every Monday and Friday we’ll look at the playoff picture, which games are on the horizon and what we are keeping an eye on.


If the playoffs ended today, these would be our Eastern Conference first-round matchups:

(A1) Bruins vs. (WC2) Penguins

(A2) Maple Leafs vs. (A3) Lightning

(M1) Hurricanes vs. (WC1) Islanders

(M2) Devils vs. (M3) Rangers


Can the Senators build playoff momentum through Western Canada?

Sens @ Canucks, Saturday 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT; Sens @ Flames, Sunday, 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT

Though Ottawa’s first game after the trade deadline was a 5-0 dud of a loss to Chicago, zoom out and notice they’re 3-1 in the Jakob Chychrun era. Chychrun in that time has two goals and four points, has seen his ice time roll up over 21 minutes the past two games and has been a real dynamic element early on.

Ottawa enters the weekend four points back of Pittsburgh for the second wild card spot, and six points back of the Islanders for the first wild card spot (and Ottawa has three games in hand).

Momentum has been building in Ottawa for some time. On Jan. 4 the Sens were seven points out of the wild card spot and then hit a speed wobble, going 2-6 over the following two-and-a-half weeks. Coming out of that Ottawa was suddenly 11 points out of the playoffs, 14th in the East. They were on the path to being a deadline seller.

And then it all turned again. The Sens finished the first half strong, carried a four-game winning streak into the all-star break, and have been one of the hottest teams in the league for weeks. Ottawa has played 18 games since Jan. 25, is 13-4-0 and a .750 points percentage that ranks second in the league over that span. For context the Penguins have been 8-7-2.

The Sens look to keep the good times rolling this weekend with road games in Vancouver and Calgary Saturday and Sunday night. The big question for the team now is if the inexperienced, unproven goalie tandem of Mads Sogaard and Kevin Mandolese can steer them through. With Cam Talbot out three weeks, Ottawa’s playoff hopes fall on the 22- and 21-year-old netminders.

Will the Red Wings’ fading playoff hopes be extinguished? Or is new life coming?

Wings @ Bruins, Saturday 1:00 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT; Wings vs. Bruins, Sunday, 1:30 p.m. ET / 10:30 a.m. PT

The Senators may actually have been the team that buried the Wings and turned them towards being a deadline seller when they beat them 6-2 and 6-1 in back-to-back games early last week. Now seven points back, GM Steve Yzerman’s team is hanging on by a thread, and have another daunting back-to-back situation facing them with a home-and-home against the best team in the league.

The battle for the Metropolitan’s top seed takes centre stage

Hurricanes @ Devils, Sunday 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. ET

Whoever finishes atop the Metro division this season will draw a first-round date with one of the wild card teams — currently it’s the NY Islanders. If you fall short of that and finish second in the division, you’ll meet the much more difficult NY Rangers out of the gate.

That’s why Sunday’s game between the Canes and Devils will be so important. Four points separate these teams heading into the weekend and, interestingly, they both also play Saturday (Carolina hosts Vegas, New Jersey visits Montreal).


If the playoffs ended today, these would be our Western Conference first-round matchups:

(P1) Golden Knights vs. (WC2) Jets

(P2) Kings vs. (P3) Kraken

(C1) Stars vs. (WC1) Oilers

(C2) Wild vs. (C3) Avalanche


Can the Wild stay on track without Kirill Kaprizov?

Wild @ Sharks, Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT; Wild at Coyotes, Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT

We all know Connor McDavid is going to be the runaway winner of the Hart Trophy this season, but who will be the other two finalists? If Buffalo makes it into the playoffs, Tage Thompson could get a nod. Jack Hughes is making a strong case in New Jersey as they charge for a division title.

Kirill Kaprizov was in the running for consideration too, before a lower-body injury knocked him out of the lineup for the next 3-4 weeks. Kaprizov is the Wild’s goal scoring leader by 17, their points leader by 15 and their shots leader by 47.

From the moment he arrived in the NHL in 2021, he was a game-changer for the Wild organization. He came with sky high expectations and met them immediately, scoring an OT winner in his first ever NHL game. Kaprizov has the fourth-most goals and fifth-most points in the entire league since his rookie 2020-21 season.

The Wild are 8-0-2 in their past 10 and just two points back of Dallas for first in the Central. Colorado is trying to catch up from behind them, five points back of the Wild with two games in hand. The Wild should have a couple of soft touches against San Jose and Arizona this weekend, but how much will the loss of Kaprizov sting?

Can the Flames find some success at home…?

Flames vs Ducks, Friday 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. PT; Flames vs Senators, Sunday, 5:00 p.m. ET / 2:00 p.m. PT

The good news is that the Flames have had a pretty good week so far, winning a couple of games on the road on back-to-back nights in Dallas and Minnesota. It was the first time they won two games in a row since Jan. 21 and 23. They haven’t won three in a row since the start of December and a four-game winning streak has eluded them all season.

Now they return home for a couple of games Friday and Sunday night — but is that good news?

Dating back to mid-December, the Flames are 5-8-2 in their past 15 home games and with just one win in their past six at the Saddledome. Overall, Calgary is 21st in the league by home-ice winning percentage, with 15 victories in 31 home games. 

Given the opponent, Friday night against the Ducks is nearly a must-win, and Sunday’s opponent Ottawa is in playoff mode right now themselves. The Flames must find a way to string some wins together now and find a way to do it at home, because it’s getting late fast in their playoff quest.

…And will the Jets feel the heat from the Flames?

Jets @ Panthers, Saturday 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT; Jets at Lightning, Sunday, 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT

While the Flames have struggled to string wins together for a couple months now, they haven’t completely fallen out of the playoff picture because some teams ahead of them have struggled as well. Right now that’s the Winnipeg Jets, 2-6-2 in their past 10, with losses to San Jose (in OT) and Minnesota (in regulation) at home this week.

Winnipeg now hits the road for a tough stretch, facing the playoff hungry Panthers on Saturday and then the Cup contending Lightning on Sunday. Next week they’ll finish the road trip in Carolina, another tough match, before returning home to face the league-leading Bruins.

Just four points separate the Jets and Flames for the West’s final wild card spot.


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