Predators look to clinch; Will Hurricanes rest stars?

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2020-21 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

Even a few days ago, it seemed like the Predators would have a lot on the line on Saturday, while the Hurricanes would maybe at least need to clinch the Central Division title. Instead, we’ll see a truly profound difference in desperation.

Despite being idle on Friday, the Stars’ regulation win vs. the Lightning clinched the Central Division title for the Hurricanes. Now, they merely need to wait and see if they’ll face the Predators or Stars in Round 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, depending upon how that do-or-die battle ends.

[Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Ultimately, the Hurricanes could play a central role in determining if it’s the Predators or Stars who finish with that final Central Division playoff spot.

The Predators finish their season with two games against the Hurricanes: one on Saturday, then another on Monday. If Nashville takes care of business early, that first one will be the only one that truly matters. It’s straightforward: if the Predators beat the Hurricanes on Saturday, then they’ll clinch a playoff spot, and the Stars would be eliminated.

Anything less than a win, and things get a little more complicated.

Speaking of complicated, the Hurricanes must gauge how much they want to put into one or both of these regular-season games vs. the Predators. After all, they could open the door for a lot of hockey vs. Nashville:

It wouldn’t be sporting of the Hurricanes to just roll over against the Predators, even if they might prefer them over a Round 1 series vs. the Stars. But the Hurricanes’ spot is set, and they’re a forward-thinking franchise. So, getting some rest would be wise. Whether that means sitting top stars, or merely managing their minutes, it’s the sort of luxury you can enjoy when you’ve clinched the No. 1 seed in your bracket.

Story continues

Frankly, even a diluted version of the Hurricanes wouldn’t necessarily be an easy out for the Predators. So, this should be a fascinating watch for hockey fans — particularly some nervous Predators and Stars fans.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (matchups by total points)

EAST DIVISION1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 4. New York Islanders2. Washington Capitals vs. 3. Boston Bruins

CENTRAL DIVISION1. Carolina Hurricanes vs. 4. Nashville Predators2. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. 3. Florida Panthers — series official, seeding to be determined

NORTH DIVISION1. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 4. Montreal Canadiens2. Edmonton Oilers vs. 3. Winnipeg Jets

WEST DIVISION1. Vegas Golden Knights vs. 4. St. Louis Blues2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 3. Minnesota Wild

SATURDAY’S KEY GAMESRangers vs. Bruins, 3 p.m. ET (NBC; livestream)Hurricanes vs. Predators, 8 p.m. ET

SATURDAY’S CLINCHING SCENARIOS

• If the Predators win vs. the Hurricanes, they will clinch the final playoff spot in the Central Division.

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Capitals – ClinchedPenguins – ClinchedIslanders – ClinchedBruins – ClinchedRangers – eliminatedFlyers – eliminatedDevils – eliminatedSabres – eliminated

Push for the Playoffs: Predators can clinch playoff spot; Will Central champ Hurricanes rest stars? May 8

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Hurricanes – Clinched division titlePanthers – ClinchedLightning – ClinchedPredators – 91.3%Stars – 8.8%Blackhawks – eliminatedRed Wings – eliminatedBlue Jackets – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Maple Leafs – ClinchedOilers – ClinchedJets – ClinchedCanadiens – 99%Flames – 1%Canucks – 0%Senators – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Golden Knights – ClinchedAvalanche – ClinchedWild – ClinchedBlues – ClinchedKings – eliminatedCoyotes – eliminatedSharks – eliminatedDucks – eliminated

Getty Images

DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE (via MoneyPuck)

Sabres – 18.5%Ducks – 13.5%Devils – 9.9%Blue Jackets – 9.4%Red Wings – 8.8%Canucks – 7.3%Senators – 6.4%Sharks – 6.4%Kings – 5.1%Coyotes – 3.6%Blackhawks – 3.3%Flames – 3.1%Flyers – 1.8%Rangers – 1.5%Stars – 1.1%

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE

Connor McDavid, Oilers – 96 pointsLeon Draisaitl, Oilers – 77Mitch Marner, Maple Leafs – 66Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche – 65Brad Marchand, Bruins – 65

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 40 goalsConnor McDavid, Oilers – 31Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche – 30Alex DeBrincat, Blackhawks – 29Tyler Toffoli, Canadiens – 28Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 28

More NHL news

The Buzzer: Blues clinch, Lightning – Panthers series set, Hurricanes… NHL Mock Draft: Owen Power tops 2021 prospect class Rangers fined $250K by NHL for criticizing player safety head

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Push for the Playoffs: Predators look to clinch; Will Hurricanes rest stars? originally appeared on NBCSports.com

Published: 2021-05-08 12:28:13

Tags: #Predators #clinch #Hurricanes #rest #stars

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