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Busy Monday in the NHL features seven games that could affect playoff picture

Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby - The Canadian Press

Washington Capitals players run the gamut from being plugged into all the NHL playoff scenarios to having no clue what else is going on.

“It’s a really big game for us and them,” rookie defenseman Vincent Iorio said Sunday ahead of facing the Boston Bruins on Monday night. “They’re trying to, I don’t know exactly what they’re trying to do, but we know what we’re trying to do.”

Win the division, but who's counting? Seven of the eight games around the league Monday night have some impact on the postseason picture, whether it's who gets in or where teams are seeded.


The heat is really on in the East, where the New York Islanders can clinch a spot by winning at rival New Jersey. Meanwhile, the Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins against Nashville and Detroit Red Wings against Montreal are all trying to stay in the mix.

“We’ve just been handling it and I’ve just handled it as we have over the last two-plus months of staying in the moment and focusing on the day’s opponent that’s in front of us, and then once we get through that, we move on to the next one,” Washington coach Spencer Carbery said. “It gets a little bit different as we get down to really the final two games, making sure that everybody’s understanding of the circumstances but we’re not overblowing any situation or any game.”

If the Capitals, Penguins and Red Wings all lose in regulation, Pittsburgh and Detroit would be eliminated, setting up a win-and-in matchup Tuesday night between Washington and Philadelphia. Things could also come down to Penguins-Islanders on Wednesday night.

Boston would wrap up the Atlantic and set up a first-round matchup with Tampa Bay with a win at Washington, ensuring Florida versus Toronto, too.

The New York Rangers, at home against the Ottawa Senators, can clinch the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs with a win of any kind.


All eight spots in the West are locked up, but the only first-round matchup locked in is Winnipeg versus Colorado as the 2/3 matchup in the Central. Dallas has already clinched that division, but the Stars are still waiting to see which team they'll open with.

That could come down to what Los Angeles does at home against Minnesota. The Kings and defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas could each finish third in the Pacific or in either of the wild-card spots.

Edmonton, which hosts last-in-the-league San Jose, could still win that division even after losing to Vancouver on Saturday night. The Oilers might want that if it can set up a third consecutive year facing L.A. and not so much if it means starting against the Golden Knights or Predators.