NHL Push for the Playoffs: Path for Golden Knights keeps getting tougher

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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 the first-round matchups might look like, see who’s leading the race for the best odds in the draft lottery and more.

After losing to the Devils on Monday night, at home, with their already slim Stanley Cup playoff chances teetering on the edge of collapse, the Golden Knights find themselves in a pretty dire position entering Wednesday’s game against the Capitals.

Their situation only got worse on Tuesday night even though they had the night off.

It was there that the gap between them and the playoff teams they are chasing only managed to increase thanks to wins by the Kings and Predators, as well as the Canucks gaining a point in a shootout loss to the Senators.

The result of the past 48 hours for the Golden Knights? A five-point deficit behind the Kings in the race for third place in the Pacific Division, a six-point deficit behind the Predators for the first Wild Card spot, and still a four-point gap behind the Stars for the second Wild Card spot while the Stars still have two games in hand. Even worse, they are now tied in the standings with the Canucks with 87 points.

Including Wednesday’s game against Washington, Vegas will play three of its remaining five games against potential playoff teams, with games against Dallas and St. Louis still remaining. The latter two games are on the road.

That Dallas game could be make-or-break for a playoff spot and is going to be one of the biggest games remaining on the schedule.

This is a potential obstacle because the Kings play nothing but non-playoff teams the rest of the way, while Dallas also has games against Seattle, Anaheim, and Arizona. If the Kings and Dallas take care of business in the games they are expected to win, it makes it even more difficult for Vegas to gain that ground. Nashville has by far the toughest remaining schedule out of this group (Calgary, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Colorado, and Arizona), but it still enters the day with a significant cushion over the Golden Knights.

Even when you take into account the injury situation for the Golden Knights this season it is still amazing to see them in this position needing to basically win out and get help just to make the playoffs.

It is also difficult to use the injuries as an excuse when you consider what other teams in the league have dealt with this season. Yes, Vegas has played much of the season without Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Alec Martinez, and Reilly Smith, among others.

The two counter points to that is teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, Colorado, and even LA have dealt with significant injuries all year. The Capitals played half of the season without Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha. The Penguins played half of the season without Evgeni Malkin, started the year without Sidney Crosby, and missed Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker for significant parts of the season. Colorado has been without Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Devon Toews, Samuel Girard, Valeri Nichushkin, and Bowen Byram. The Kings were starting from a way lower talent level, have been devastated by injuries all year on defense, and are still ahead of Vegas.

The other counter point is Vegas’ self created salary cap and roster issues. The Golden Knights chose to keep Robin Lehner over Marc-Andre Fleury. They chose to trade for Evgenii Dadaonov over the summer (who they tried to trade away at the trade deadline) knowing their salary cap situation. They chose to trade for Jack Eichel knowing how it would impact their salary cap situation and how long he would be out. Those were all choices they made.

IF PLAYOFFS STARTED TODAY (sorted by points percentage)

ATLANTIC DIVISION
Panthers vs. Capitals
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

METROPOLITAN DIVISION
Hurricanes vs. Bruins
Rangers vs. Penguins

CENTRAL DIVISION
Avalanche vs. Stars
Wild vs. Blues

PACIFIC DIVISION
Flames vs. Predators
Oilers vs. Kings

TODAY’S KEY GAMES

Stars vs. Oilers, 8:30 p.m. ET
Capitals vs. Golden Knights, 10 p.m. ET
Avalanche vs. Kraken, 10 p.m. ET

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Panthers – clinched
Maple Leafs – clinched
Lightning – clinched
Bruins – clinched
Red Wings – eliminated
Sabres – eliminated
Senators – eliminated
Canadiens – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Hurricanes – clinched
Rangers – clinched
Penguins – clinched
Capitals – clinched
Islanders – eliminated
Blue Jackets – eliminated
Flyers – eliminated
Devils – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Avalanche – clinched No. 1 seed in Western Conference
Blues – clinched
Wild – clinched
Predators – 97%
Stars – 92.7%
Jets – 0%
Blackhawks – eliminated
Coyotes – eliminated

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES (via MoneyPuck)

Flames – clinched
Oilers – 99.9%
Kings – 91.9%
Golden Knights – 13.5%
Canucks – 5.1%
Ducks – eliminated
Sharks – eliminated
Kraken – eliminated

draft lottery
Getty Images

DRAFT LOTTERY PICTURE (via Tankathon)

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

ART ROSS TROPHY RACE

Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers – 111 points
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 110
Johnny Gaudreau, Flames – 108
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 105
Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 102
Matthew Tkachuk, Flames – 99

ROCKET RICHARD RACE

Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs – 58 goals
Leon Draisaitl, Oilers – 54
Chris Kreider, Rangers – 50
Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 48
Kyle Connor, Jets – 43
Kirill Kaprizov, Wild – 43
Connor McDavid, Oilers – 42

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Push for the Playoffs: Path for Golden Knights keeps getting tougher originally appeared on NBCSports.com