We are now into the final month of the NHL season. With the exception of the Metropolitan division, all division titles will not be decided until the final week of the season. This will impact first round playoff match-ups and guarantees exciting hockey action to wrap up the season.
The wild card spots in the Eastern Conference are also up for grabs. The Penguins and Red Wings are currently holding down those spots, but the Flyers, Hurricanes, and Senators are hot on their heels.
A lot of key match-ups are still ahead on the schedule and I aim to highlight just a few that I highly recommend tuning in to.
March 11th & 22nd Blackhawks and Stars
These two teams are currently tied for first place in the Central division. These two games will likely determine who wins the division. The Blues are also only a point behind them and play each of these teams one more time.
March 15th & April 6th Red Wings and Flyers
The Flyers are only two points back of Detroit for the second wild card spot. Their growth and progress has occurred faster than anticipated. Having a Calder favourite on the roster has also given them a spark over the past month. Neuvirth is also playing well in net and they could just be the team to dethrone the Red Wings from a playoff appearance in over two decades.
March 19th & April 3rd/9th Penguins and Flyers
The battle of the bell state still has three rounds to go. Similarly, to Detroit, the Flyers are a mere three points back of their division rival Penguins. These three games, along with the aforementioned two versus Detroit, will determine whether or not the Flyers are on the ice or golf course at the end of April.
March 24th & 26th Panthers and Bruins/Lightning
Despite the recent additions of Hudler and Purcell, the Panthers Atlantic division title hopes are still just out of reach. These two games will show whether or not the 2016 playoffs will have them represented as contenders or pretenders.
March 26th Wild and Avalanche
The second wild card spot in the Western Conference will be awarded to one of these two teams. Although there will still be two weeks of action left, this game is of most importance for both teams, in my opinion.
April 7th Islanders and Rangers
The NHL version of the subway series has one game remaining. The Capitals have a strong grasp on the Metropolitan division title, but who gets the second spot will likely be decided in this match up. Unless Pittsburgh picks it up over the next few weeks both New York teams will finish top four in the Eastern Conference and have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
April 7th Ducks and Kings
After a slow start, the Ducks have turned it around over the past six weeks and are showing they are ready to compete for a Stanley Cup this season. The Kings narrowly missed out on playoff action last season and are primed to return to them this year.
The Sharks are close on their heels and the March 28th matchup between the Kings is equally as important in this division race.
April 3rd Stars and Ducks
Could this be a possible Western Conference Final preview? Only time will tell.
Here are only a few of the key matchups remaining in the NHL regular season schedule. The playoff picture will not be formed until April, with Washington as the East top seed being the only exception.
Unless Ottawa can play well in this final month it will also be the first in many to have no Canadian team represented. If the Flyers and Canes can put together a winning streak, it may also be the first in quite some time without Detroit included.
Enjoy the final month of regular season action and don’t forget to follow myself on Twitter @GHam614 along with @SuperTwo_Sports
*stats as of March 9th