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Possible Winners: Wildcards in the Playoffs Forecast

Courtesy of The Athletic

The Stanley Cup playoffs are looming. With less than a month left until the start, several have already clinched playoff spots.

Most of the teams that have clinched spots have shown remarkable performances. From the rise of the New York Rangers to the vast improvement of the Vancouver Canucks, the Colorado Avalanche is looking to clinch another Stanley Cup. However, these teams were projected and favored to clinch a spot. These teams asserted dominance on the ice from the start. Then again, this is a small majority.

Most teams are still fighting for a spot.

While others, such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks, have already been eliminated for obvious reasons. However, some are still on the fence. These next three weeks will be crucial for these several teams to secure a spot in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Courtesy Bruce Bennett | Getty Images

The Lightning have made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 13 out of 28 concluded seasons, clinching the Stanley Cup three times—first in 2004 and then in consecutive years, 2020 and 2021. The Lightning are not forces to be messed with on the ice. At the moment, they have eliminated most of the teams who have qualified for the 2024 playoffs. Currently sitting fourth in the Atlantic Division, Tampa isn’t doing too badly.

There’s no doubt that their road to the playoffs has been bumpy. With a rocky start, a strong idle, and then again, a very rocky end, their next games are crucial in determining their spot. As of today, if they manage to win four of their nine next games, Tampa will be in the playoffs. Out of all of the teams listed, this team has the highest probability of making it.

With a strong goalie and defense, they are undoubtedly making it. While Andrei Vasilevskiy’s injury may have thrown them out of playoff contention, the Lighting are a historically strong team, performing especially well in the playoffs.

Washington Capitals:

Courtesy of Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals are the true definition of a team you love and hate. The Capitals either have incredible performances, such as shutting out the Rangers in December and the Avalanche in February, or will brutally fall to eliminated teams, such as the Chicago Blackhawks or the Arizona Coyotes. The bumpy road for them began after winning the Stanley Cup in 2019. Just in 2023, they broke their nine-year streak of playoff contention.

The Capitals had an unusually rocky start to the season, at one point finishing second to last in the Metropolitan standings. However, the Capitals have been fiercely fighting to be in the playoffs since the new year.

Their performance recently has been strong, and they are favored over teams such as the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders. They’ve managed to beat The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers a significant number of times, relying on their young lineup. Even with the loss of Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie’s injuries, the Capitals are determined and, most likely, will make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Nashville Predators:

Courtesy of Frederick Breedon / Getty Images

Despite facing two losses over the weekend against the Arizona Coyotes and the Colorado Avalanche, the Nashville Predators are on the verge of clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2022.

The Predators hold the first wild card position in the Western Conference with 90 points from 74 games played. They maintain a three-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings, who occupy the second wild card position, and an eight-point advantage over the St. Louis Blues, the closest team outside the playoff picture.

The Predators have several critical games this week that could impact their status. If certain teams lose, Nashville's magic number decreases, bringing them closer to clinching a playoff spot.

Looking ahead, the Predators could clinch a playoff berth as early as Saturday night if they defeat the Bruins on Tuesday, secure a regulation victory against the Blues on Thursday and either win against the Islanders or see the Blues lose in regulation to the Sharks on Saturday.

Seattle Kraken:

Courtesy of Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Seattle Kraken has left an indelible mark on the league in three short seasons. From a turbulent inaugural season to a sophomore campaign that saw them amass a staggering 100 points, their journey has been nothing short of remarkable.

Challenges have arisen as they navigate through the 2023-24 season, but the Kraken have demonstrated resilience, keeping games tightly contested. Key players like Jared McCann and Oliver Bjorkstrand have emerged as linchpins for bolstering the team's offensive prowess. At the same time, goaltender Joey Daccord admirably guarded the net instead of Philipp Grubauer.

Despite their efforts, the Kraken currently find themselves on the fringes of playoff contention. The burning question remains: Can they summon the same unexpected magic of seasons past and mount a late surge into the coveted postseason? The latest Stanley Cup odds offer a glimpse into the uncertain path that lies ahead for the Kraken.

These next four weeks, especially this week, will tell for these wildcard teams. After all, as the saying goes, “only time will tell”.

Edited by: Lily Hayes

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