Avalanche aims to thrive, Kings to survive

Push for the Playoffs will run every morning through the end of the 2021-22 NHL season. We’ll highlight the current playoff picture in both conferences, take a look at what first-round matchups could look like, see who’s leading the race for the best draft lottery odds and more. Again.

Simply put, you can separate NHL teams into three levels of urgency at this point in the season:

  • Teams are building for the future, maybe tanking, and almost certainly thinking about golf/vacation.
  • Knock out playoff teams that want to improve a good thing with home advantage. Gourmands may even just want to chase records or finish strong.
  • Those who are still fighting for their “playoff life.”

When you get a titan against a team of tankers, it can be a bit sad. Meanwhile, those rooting against a team in the playoff bubble can really feel some angst watching that team take on a team that’s eliminated (or, you know, just bad).

However, every once in a while you get the two big flavors of possible playoff teams.

On Wednesday night, a powerful, rested Avalanche team will face a more desperate Kings team that took care of business against the Blackhawks on Tuesday.

[Check out where the Kings and Avs place in PHT’s Power Rankings]

With the Panthers on fire, the Avalanche are no longer alone in their hunt for the Presidents’ Trophy. Colorado is hot in its own right, having won six straight. Considering the Avalanche have dealt with injuries, they probably want to get as close to full speed as possible.

(Granted, those brushes with wounds should also remind them that you don’t necessarily need to punch after all whistle.)

Without a doubt, the Avalanche’s ambitions translate into “champagne trouble” from the Kings’ perspective. Overall, the Kings are still in a battle for playoff survival and can’t get too comfortable with Drew Doughty out for the season.

There have been a lot of ups and downs lately. The absolute most recent trend is up, with the Kings winning, the Oilers losing and the Golden Knights dropping a crucial contest against the Canucks in OT.

Certainly, despite all the talk of the higher stakes for the Kings, there is at least room for higher ambitions. The gap between the Oilers and the Kings isn’t that big, so there’s an outside chance that Los Angeles could even gain home advantage. It would be a step up from mere survival.

IF THE PLAYOFFS START TODAY (sorted by point percentage)

ATLANTIC POLE
Panthers vs. Capitals
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

METROPOLITAN DIVISION
Hurricanes vs. Bruins
Rangers vs Penguins

CENTRAL DIVISION
Avalanche against stars
Wild vs. Blues

PACIFIC SECTOR
Flames against predators
Oilers vs. Kings

THE KEY GAMES OF THE DAY

Kings vs. Avalanche, 9:30 p.m. ET

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Panthers – off the hook
Maple Leafs – off the hook
Lightning – 100%
Bruins- 100%
Red Wings – eliminated
Sabers – eliminated
Senators – eliminated
Canadians – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Hurricanes – stalled
Rangers – off the hook
Penguins – 100%
Capitals – 99.98%
Islanders – 0%
Blue jackets – 0%
Flyers – eliminated
Devils – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Avalanche – off the hook
Wild – 100%
Bruises – 100%
Predators – 92.1%
Stars – 83.9%
Throws – 0.5%
Blackhawks – eliminated
Coyotes – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Flames – 100%
Oil tankers – 96.6%
Kings – 85.3%
Golden Knights – 35.9%
Canucks – 5.7%
Ducks – eliminated
Sharks – 0%
Kraken – eliminated

NHL pushes for playoffs
Getty Images

DRAFT LOTTERY IMAGE (via Tankathon)

16.6% – Coyotes
12.1% – Canadians
10.9% –Kraken
9.7% – Leaflets
8.5% – Devils
7.6% – Blackhawks (*conditional)
6.7% – Senators
5.8% – Sabers
5.4% – Red Wings
4.5% – The Sharks
3.1% – Ducks
2.7% – Blue jackets
2.2% – Islanders
1.8% – Jets
1.4% – Canucks
1% – Golden Knights (*conditional)

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE

Connor McDavid, Oilers – 108 points
Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers – 105
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 102
Johnny Gaudreau, Flames – 101
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 99
Matthew Tkachuk, Flames – 92

ROCKET RICHARD COURSE

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 58 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 51
Chris Kreider, Rangers – 50
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 46
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 42
Kyle Connor, Jets – 42
Kirill Kaprizov, Savage – 42

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

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