Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Golden Knights, Avalanche look to win West


Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2021 NHL postseason. There are eight days left in the regular season and each of the 16 spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs has been claimed. The four berths in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, eight-team Honda West Division, eight-team Discover Central Division and seven-team Scotia North Division have been clinched. Playoff positions in the West have yet to be determined. 

Here is a look at the NHL standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.

Clinching scenarios 

The Vegas Golden Knights will clinch the Presidents’ Trophy and No. 1 seed in the Honda West Division:

– If their points earned against the San Jose Sharks exceeds the Colorado Avalanche’s points earned against the Los Angeles Kings (Vegas’ 2 to Colorado’s 0; Vegas’ 2 to Colorado’s 1; or Vegas’ 1 to Colorado’s 0)

The Avalanche will clinch the Presidents’ Trophy and No. 1 seed in the West:

– If they defeat the Kings in any fashion and the Sharks defeat the Golden Knights in regulation

The Toronto Maple Leafs will remain in Presidents’ Trophy contention:

– If they defeat the Ottawa Senators in any fashion and the Sharks defeat the Golden Knights in regulation and the Kings defeat the Avalanche in any fashion.

On Tap

There are five games on the NHL schedule Wednesday, four with playoff implications: 

Edmonton Oilers at Montreal Canadiens, 5 p.m. ET (NHLN, TSN2, RDS, SNW, NHL.TV): Though this game does not have playoff implications, each team is tuning up for the first round. The Oilers will play the Winnipeg Jets and the Canadiens will play the Toronto Maple Leafs. Edmonton center Connor McDavid has scored at least two points in six straight games. He leads the NHL with 102 points (33 goals, 69 assists) in 54 games.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators, 8 p.m. ET (SN, TVAS2, NHL.TV): The Maple Leafs are in contention to win the Presidents’ Trophy. They first must defeat the Senators in any fashion and then will then need the San Jose Sharks to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights in regulation and the Los Angeles Kings to defeat the Colorado Avalanche in any fashion. Goalie Frederik Andersen will start for Toronto after missing 23 games with a knee injury. He hasn’t played in the NHL since March 19.

Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+, NBCSA+, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV): The Golden Knights can clinch the Presidents’ Trophy and the No. 1 seed in the West Division if they earn one more point than the Avalanche, meaning a win and a Colorado loss of any kind, or an overtime/shootout loss and a Colorado regulation loss. Vegas is 7-0-0 against San Jose this season.

Los Angeles Kings at Colorado Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+, ALT, BSW, NHL.TV): The Avalanche also have a chance to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy and the No. 1 seed in the West Division. The must defeat the Kings in any fashion and hope the Sharks defeat the Golden Knights in regulation. The Avalanche can lock up at the No. 2 seed in the West with one point. They have won three consecutive games and six of their past seven. They’ve also won four in a row against the Kings and are 5-1-0 against them this season.

Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues, 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN, BSMW, NHL.TV): The Wild and Blues are still awaiting their first-round opponents. The Wild can be the No. 2 seed in the West if they win their final two games and the Avalanche lose their final two in regulation. The Blues will be the No. 4 seed in the West. One will play the Golden Knights and the other will face the Avalanche. The Blues earned five out of a possible six points in three straight games against the Wild from April 28-May 1 (3-0-2) and have points in five straight games against them (4-0-1).

About last night

There were two games Tuesday, one with playoff implications:

Winnipeg Jets 5, Vancouver Canucks 0: The Jets clinched third place in the North Division and a first-round matchup against the second-place Oilers thanks to a 24-save shutout from goalie Connor Hellebuyck and a four-point night for forward Blake Wheeler (two goals, two assists). Forward Kyle Connor scored three points (one goal, two assists). Wheeler and Connor were each plus-4. Jets center Paul Stastny played his 1,000th NHL game.

If playoffs started Wednesday 

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Wednesday. The series in the North, East and Central are set: 

North Division 

(1) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (4) Montreal Canadiens
(2) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3) Winnipeg Jets

East Division 

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (4) New York Islanders
(2) Washington Capitals vs. (3) Boston Bruins 

Central Division  

(1) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (4) Nashville Predators  
(2) Florida Panthers vs. (3) Tampa Bay Lightning

West Division  

(1) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (4) St. Louis Blues
(2) Colorado Avalanche vs. (3) Minnesota Wild  

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