Unless we see an epic collapse the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, NY Islanders, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, and San Jose Sharks should be playoff locks.
And unless we see an epic hot streak the Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, NY Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks , Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks, and LA Kings will not be playoff teams this year.
Here is my breakdown of the rest of the playoff contenders schedules starting March 6th.
Arizona Coyotes 8 home games, 7 road games. A nice home schedule to finish with 5 non playoff teams and their last 3 out of 4 at home. A 4 game East Coast road swing with games against Tampa Bay and the NY Islanders will be critical. The big make or break games late in the season will be 3/29 at Colorado, 3/31 against Minnesota, and 4/4 at Vegas. The last game of the season at home against Winnipeg could be against a Jets team playing for nothing.
Carolina Hurricanes 9 home games, 7 road games. They will have a nice home stand of 7 out of 8 games starting March 16th with all games except one against playoff teams or playoff contenders. A tricky 3 game stretch starting March 9th against Nashville, Colorado, and Columbus and playing their last 3 out of 4 against Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Philadelphia will be their most treacherous road trips. The possible make or break games will be home and away games against fellow playoff contenders Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Colorado Avalanche 9 home games, 6 road games. Arguably the best schedule for all of the playoff contenders with 9 homes games and only 2 games against teams right now in the top 9 in points. The make or break section of the schedule is back to back road games 3/19 against Minnesota and 3/21 against Dallas and 3 straight against Western Conference playoff contenders Vegas, St Louis, and Arizona. Their last 2 are against San Jose and Winnipeg but both of those teams could have already secured their playoff positions.
Columbus Blue Jackets 6 home games, 10 road games. One of the tougher finishing schedules and the next 7 could be the make or break stretch for the Blue Jackets. Home and away games this Thursday and Sunday against Pittsburgh and the next 5 after that include 2 against Boston, at the NY Islanders and Calgary, and a home game against Carolina. Their last 4 out of 5 are on the road but 3 of those are against non playoff teams.
Dallas Stars 9 home games, 7 road games. The next 7 of 9 are at home including 2 against Colorado. A late 4 game road swing through Canada in late March might be the make or break stretch for the Stars. The last game of the season is at home against Minnesota which could possibly be a winner in/loser out scenario.
Minnesota Wild 8 homes games, 7 road games. A very tough final stretch with only 2 of the teams on their remaining schedule non playoff teams and all of their remaining road games are against playoff or playoff contending teams. They have a favorable 5 game home stretch starting March 11th but their last 3 on the road include at Western Conference playoff contenders Vegas, Arizona, and Dallas.
Montreal Canadiens 7 home games, 8 road games. No road swings or home stands longer than 2 games but an absolute killer last 4 with Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Toronto. They could get lucky with all of those teams already clinching spots and not playing their best lineups. The make or break could be 3 road games against playoff contenders Columbus, Philadelphia, and Carolina.
Philadelphia Flyers 8 home games, 8 road games. Another team with no long road swings or a long home stand of more than 2 games. They have 3 games against Washington 2 each against Toronto and the NY Islanders. The make or break games could be 2 of their last 5 against Carolina including the last game at home against the Hurricanes.
Pittsburgh Penguins 9 home games, 7 road games. Critical 2 this week with Columbus and then back to back games against Washington and Boston. Their make or break part of the schedule is a 4 game road trip which includes Nashville, Carolina, and Dallas from March 19-25. They finish with 4 out of 6 at home and they play non playoff contenders the NY Rangers and Detroit Red Wings twice in those last 6.
St Louis Blues 8 home games, 9 road games. The critical stretch starts tomorrow night with their next 6 out of 7 on the road. They do play 10 non playoff contenders and only 2 teams in the top 9 in points. Also all of their games against Western Conference playoff contenders Arizona, Vegas, and Colorado are at home.
Vegas Golden Knights 7 home games, 8 road games. The next 2 out of 3 are against Calgary and 4 out of 5 on the road. Only 1 Eastern Conference team on the remaining schedule which is a very winnable home game against Detroit and the furthest East they will have to travel is St Louis. They will have 3 straight games against Western Conference playoff contenders St. Louis, Colorado, and Minnesota from March 25-29.