There are several teams on the precipice of securing a position in the Stanley Cup playoffs Tuesday, March 22. The Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars have a chance to clinch a berth in the Western Conference while the Washington Capitals can earn not only the Metropolitan Division crown but the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Sharks need a win over the St. Louis Blues at home to clinch a return trip to the postseason they missed for the first time since 2003 after the 2014-15 NHL season. The Ducks only need a point in their visit with the Montreal Canadiens.
Either team could also get in if the Arizona Coyotes leave points on the table against the Edmonton Oilers. Any point lost puts Anaheim in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but that would only be enough for San Jose to get in if it also earned at least a point.
The Stars are leading the tough Central Division but still need a win and help. They face a tough task simply getting their part done at the Chicago Blackhawks. The three-time Stanley Cup champions may not be playing well at the moment and are now in third place, but they have too much talent not to start their typical spring ascent soon…remember they also finished third during the 2014-15 NHL season.
Should Dallas extend its Central Division lead over Chicago to three games with a win, it still needs a regulation win by the Los Angeles Kings—the only team besides the Capitals to have clinched a playoff berth with three weeks to go in the 2015-16 NHL season. The two-time Stanley Cup champions will face a battle in their visit with the Minnesota Wild, a team half a game out of the postseason picture.
Meanwhile, Washington visits the Ottawa Senators and needs a win to claim either the Metropolitan Division title or top seed in the Eastern Conference. Even a shootout win earns both distinctions, and the only team in action Tuesday that can even technically be considered in the chase for either is the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning can only achieve the best record in the Eastern Conference by winning their final 10 games with no more than one via shootout while the Capitals lose their last 11 in regulation. If that was not ridiculous enough, Tuesday’s win is made harder by the Detroit Red Wings coming to town desperate to keep a 25-year postseason streak intact.
Still, Washington may well not have anything clinched at the end of the night because it cannot clinch the top Eastern Conference seed in a loss even if Tampa Bay also loses. The Metropolitan Division must first be clinched and that only happens with a win—no simple task on the road even against a team almost eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, even if it is more likely than not.
The Ducks are the team that is virtually assured of finishing the day with a postseason berth. The Sharks are also fairly likely to because even if they cannot beat the Blues, there is a significant chance the Oilers beat the Coyotes. However, the Stars will probably have to wait a few more days.