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Latest Red Wings Playoff Scenario: They Control Their Destiny



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Just like in today’s solar eclipse, the alignment is perfect for the Detroit Red Wings when it comes to qualifying for the playoffs after a seven-season absence.

Their Sunday win against Buffalo, coupled with Washington’s overtime loss to Ottawa, put the Red Wings in the Eastern Conference’s second wildcard spot by a point over the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. The Red Wings play Washington Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena. Detroit plays the Penguins in Pittsburgh Thursday. Those two games will say much about Detroit’s playoff chances.

What it means: If the Red Wings win their last five games (against Washington, Pittsburgh, Toronto and two games against Montreal), they need no help. They would be in the playoffs.  Detroit also would get in if it matches the best record of the wildcard contenders. In other words, if the best record among contenders is 3-2 and Detroit matches that record, then they would qualify.

The Red Wings, Capitals, Penguins and New York Islanders have five games left. The Flyers, who have lost seven games in a row, have four games remaining. The Capitals have lost six in a row.  The Red Wings are 4-3-2 in their last nine. The Penguins are playing the best hockey in 6-0-1 in their last seven. The Islanders have lost five of their last six.

“This is what it’s about this time of year,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde said. “We haven’t been here in eight years. Now only have we gotten here, our guys have worked their butts off to get here and we’ve earned it. I’m excited to see how we handle it.”

The New York Islanders, in a qualifying spot because they are in third place in the Metropolitan Division, could provide a complication for Detroit because the Islanders are one point ahead of the Red Wings. If a team passes the Islanders for third, New York moves into the wildcard race.  If, or when, the Islanders and Red Wings lose, the point becomes an issue.

One thought around the league is the Red Wings will get in if they beat Washington and Pittsburgh this week.

Tiebreaker Disadvantage

Detroit technically have a long-shot chance of earning the first wildcard position in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning, holding the first wildcard spot, have a nine-point lead over Detroit. That means if the Lightning earns one point or Detroit fails to earn two points, the Red Wings are eliminated from consideration for the first wildcard.

Something to keep in mind: the first NHL tiebreaker for playoff consideration is regulation wins. As of this morning, the Capitals, Penguins and Flyers have the tiebreaker advantage over Detroit. The Red Wings have the tiebreaker over the Islanders.

If Detroit earns the No. 8 seed  wildcard spot, the team will likely meet the New York Rangers in the opening round of the playoffs. They have a three-point lead (110 to 107) over the Boston Bruins for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have four games remaining. The Rangers own the tiebreaker over the Bruins.

In this season, Detroit is 0-3 against the Rangers and 2-2 versus the Bruins.