Stanley Cup Playoff Scenarios: Final Week in the NHL Eastern Conference

Wacky, wild, and wonderful. Welcome to prime-time, final-week theater in the NHL.

Four Eastern Conference teams — the New York Islanders, Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, and Pittsburgh Penguins — are separated by just three points and stalk two playoff berths during the frantic final week of the regular season.

Three of these teams are separated by just one point. Each team has four games left, some versus each other.

Never mind tiebreakers for now. That’s a separate story if it materializes. Hold on for a great final week.

Updated NHL Standings

Two of these teams will reach the playoffs:

  • Islanders, 87 points
  • Capitals, 85 points
  • Penguins and Red Wings, 84 points

These teams have played leap frog against each other for the last month. Bettors have been cashing the Islanders (5-0) and the Penguins (6-0-3) over the last few weeks. Between them, they have points in 14 straight games.

Odds to Make the Playoffs

  • Islanders
  • Penguins
  • Capitals
  • Red Wings

Philly Fadeout

There was a fifth team in this mix until recently. But the Philadelphia Flyers are on an 0-8 freefall and just lost to the non-playoff-bound Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens by a combined 15-5. They ran out of gas.

Technically, they are not out of it. But they only have 83 points and three games left. Odds to make playoffs:

See more Stanley Cup odds

Handicapping the Major Contenders


  • Recent Streak: 5 straight wins ML
  • Biggest Stat: Just 5 goals allowed in the last 4 games

Early last week, they teetered on extinction. They trailed the Flyers by five points for third place in the Metropolitan  Division and gave up a tying goal to Philly with 10 seconds left in a pivotal game. However, they did win in overtime, launching the run.

New York gained a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks and toppled the Blue Jackets  4-2.

The Islanders assumed third place with a 2-0 shutout over the Nashville Predators Saturday and gained an unlikely 4-2 triumph Tuesday night over the New York Rangers.

This team had looked out of it after a previous 0-5-1 run. Now they are in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot.

Final Week Schedule:

  • Thursday: vs Montreal Canadiens
  • Saturday: at NY Rangers
  • Monday: at New Jersey Devils
  • Wednesday: vs Pittsburgh Penguins

Betting Overview:

If one considers two points against the Rangers a bonus, the two points looming vs the Canadiens are a mandatory pickup.

How tantalizing is this schedule? That game against Pittsburgh could decide all of it.

The Penguins are the only team hotter than the Islanders. And they are Equator-like hot.

Related Pages: Best NHL Betting Sites | Hockey Betting Promo Codes | NHL Odds | Puck Line Betting


  • Recent Streak: 3 points in last 2 games
  • Biggest Stat: Alex Ovechkin Sets New Mark

This is a now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t team. The Caps have been lurking around that final playoff spot like a stalking horse ready to pounce down the homestretch.

The Caps won three in a row, then lost five, with a couple ties. They dropped a key point at home by losing in overtime to the Ottawa Senators, but then upended the favored Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night.

That’s because goaltender Charlie  Lindgren stood on his head to stop 42 of 43 shots.

The spark of 38-year-old Alex Ovechkin has also rejuvenated the team. He’s no longer the league’s most prolific scorer, but he did set an NHL record by reaching 30 goals for an 18th straight season.

Final Week Schedule:

  • Thursday: at Buffalo Sabres
  • Saturday: vs Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Monday: vs Boston Bruins
  • Wednesday: at Philadelphia Flyers

Betting Overview:

Consistency is a problem. But at least three of the last four games come against teams with little to play for.


  • Recent Streak: 15 Points in 9 games (6-0-3), the best showing in this group.
  • Biggest Stat: Sidney Crosby, 17 points in the last 9 games

Sid the Kid has been dipped in the fountain of youth. The 36-year-old Crosby has found 24-year-old legs and put this team on his back.

The Penguins have made an improbable climb and done some unlikely things. They beat the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers, the top teams in their division. They rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit with five goals to beat (and bury) the New Jersey Devils.

The Penguins most recently triumphed over the Tampa Bay Lightning and took the Toronto Maple Leafs to the brink before falling in overtime.

Haven’t lost in regulation since a 4-2 setback to the Dallas Stars on March 22.

Final Week Schedule:

  • Thursday: vs Detroit Red Wings
  • Saturday: vs Boston Bruins
  • Monday: vs Nashville Predators
  • Wednesday: at NY Rangers

Betting Overview

It’s the toughest road of any team regarding the quality of opposition, but the next three are at home. Have played with the most confidence of any team in the running. Must avoid hitting the wall. 

Red Wings

  • Recent Streak: 2-4-2
  • Noteworthy Stat:  Under is on a 5-1 run.

The Red Wings entered the week on a good roll, having recently defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres.

Their momentum was interrupted by Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Capitals, but they played well. What can you do when 43 shots on the net result in just one goal?

Final Week Schedule:

  • Thursday: at Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Saturday: at Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Mon: vs Montreal Canadiens
  • Wed: at Montreal Canadiens

Betting Overview:

It was the most favorable schedule of all the teams left because of two closing games with the Canadiens.

The backers of Detroit would be quite happy if the Wings churn out two points over the next two challenging games. But they need at least one to make the points available against Montreal more significant.

It would be a strong moneyline play, especially at home, if the Montreal games are important.


About the Author
Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is an award-winning writer and broadcaster, who has covered the sports industry since the 1970s. He won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 1997, and is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Bontempo has broadcast major fights all over the world. The advent of legalized sports wagering shifted his focus to this exciting new industry in 2018.

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