BOSTON — The Florida Panthers are making it easy for the Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls.
The defending Presidents' Trophy winners remain in the thick of the wild card race, but a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday marked the fourth game in a row in which they've failed to earn a point.
The Panthers are three points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins with one more game played, and according to Locked On Panthers podcast host Armando Velez, their chase is all but over.
NHL Playoff Picture as of Tuesday, March 28
Five of the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams have clinched their spot: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Tampa Bay Lightning are close.
The Western Conference does not have any confirmed teams for the playoffs yet, but it's pretty clear where how the Central and Pacific Divisions will shake out with the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars all getting playoff spots.
The Wild Card races in each conference are tight. Two Wild Card teams from each conference will get playoff berths.
Eastern Conference Wild Card standings
1. New York Islanders, 85 points
2.Pittsburgh Penguins, 82 points
3. Florida Panthers, 79 points
4. Buffalo Sabres, 77 points
5. Ottawa Senators, 77 points
6. Washington Capitals, 76 points
7. Detroit Red Wings, 73 points
Western Conference Wild Card standings
1. Seattle Kraken, 88 points
2. Winnipeg Jets, 85 points
3. Calgary Flames, 83 points
4. Nashville Predators, 82 points
The New York Islanders scored a massive 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday, and they're now six points ahead of the Panthers, albeit with one more game played.
Locked On Islanders podcast host Gil Martin credited a new look line of Brock Nelson, Pierre Engvall, and Kyle Palmieri for leading offensive charge while Ilya Sorokin continues to be, well, Ilya Sorokin.
Sandwiched between the Islanders and Panthers is the Pittsburgh Penguins, who seem in line to clinch a spot and face the Boston Bruins in the opening round.
Out West, the Calgary Flames are four points back of the Winnipeg Jets, a gap that is highlighted by the team from Alberta's league-high 15 overtime/shootout losses. If even a handful of those had gone their way, they'd be comfortably in a playoff spot.
Perhaps the recently-signed Matthew Coronota could help them get over the hump? Jess Belmosto of the Locked On Flames podcast discussed that possibility.
The Nashville Predators are still kicking around as well with a date with the Bruins in Boston set for Tuesday.
The Boston Bruins, by the way, can clinch the Presidents' Trophy on Tuesday with a win over Nashville coupled with a Carolina loss.