The Final Week of the NHL Season is Here

Seventy-nine games down, three to go. That's what most of the NHL teams are looking at facing the final week of the season, with a few exceptions that have played 78 or Anaheim with 80. That extra game is no advantage for the Ducks though, as the former powerhouse and playoff contender has been out of contention the entire season. Other recent Cup winners to be sitting out the rest of April include the Chicago Blackhawks and L.A. Kings.

For a huge chunk of the league, though, these games matter, and matter a lot. There are playoff spots on the line and seeding to be decided, as well. Let's see what the rest of the season is going to look like.

Tampa Waits

Tampa has absolutely dominated this year, and could finish more than 20 points ahead of the second best team in the league. For their last three games, they get to scout out potential first and second round matchups. They play the Canadians tonight, which could be the first team they play in the playoffs. Unless there's a huge upset, they'd then face either the Leafs or Bruins, who they play in their last two games on Thursday and Saturday. This is a great chance to not only rest players, but get some great film to study so they can be ready to roll come playoff time.

The Battle For the East

The Lightning have had that first place spot secure for what seems like all year, but the Metro is another story. Even though the Capitals and Islanders have clinched, nobody has won the division. The Caps could potentially go from 2-seed down to 7th, which would be a devastating fall for the defenders of Lord Stanley. The Penguins are yet to clinch with three games remaining, and could either win the division or miss the playoffs entirely. They have a somewhat "easy" schedule playing Detroit and the New York Rangers in their final games, but in the hockey world, anything can happen.

Assuming the Penguins don't completely choke, there's a three-way battle for two remaining spots in the East. Columbus and Carolina currently sit in those spots, with Montreal knocking at the door.

The final schedule for these teams:

Blue Jackets: Bruins, Rangers, Senators
Hurricanes: Leafs, Devils, Flyers
Canadians: Lightning, Capitals, Leafs

Obviously, the Canadians have a much tougher schedule than the Canes and Jackets, but they're only one point behind and could jump on other teams' mistakes. Teams like the Devils, Rangers, and Flyers can get dangerous when they have nothing to lose and young players playing for a roster spot for next year.

The Awards

These last few games could change who wins the major awards in the NHL, too. Current leaders include:

Art Ross Trophy: Nikita Kucherov
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Mark Giordano
Vezina Trophy: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Calder Memorial Trophy: Elias Pettersson
Maurice Richard Trophy: Alex Ovechikn
William M. Jennings Trophy: Robin Lehner

The Rest

Over in the West, there's a battle between Colorado and Arizona for the final spot, too, with the winner playing Calgary in the first round. The Stars could technically miss the playoffs, too, but their schedule should let them make it somewhat easily. The Sharks and Golden Knights will play each other in the first round for sure, but the rest is up in the air, including a three-way battle for first in the Central between the Jets, Predators, and Blues with only 2 points between them.

It's going to be quite the ride, so strap in and enjoy the games.

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