The Detroit Red Wings head into Friday night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes with 91 points and tied for the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Philadelphia Flyers, who also have 91 points, currently hold the third and final playoff spot from the Metropolitan division.
Detroit, Philadelphia, and Columbus have all received playoff berths but the seeding is yet to be determined.
The final playoff berth for the Metropolitan division will be Philadelphia or Columbus, the other being the second wild-card winner.
The winner of the wild card (7th overall seed) will be placed into the Metropolitan division bracket, the second wild-card team (8th overall seed) will be placed into the Atlantic division bracket.
In order to receive the higher seed, Detroit will need to finish the season with the most points of the two wild-card teams. Due to the tiebreaker (Regulation + Overtime Wins) a tie would grant the higher seed to the Blue Jackets or Flyers. (Philadelphia currently holds the tiebreaker over Columbus.)
Here’s each team’s remaining schedules:
Detroit: 4/11 v. Carolina Hurricanes, 4/13 @ St. Louis Blues
Columbus: 4/11 @ Tampa Bay Lightning, 4/12 @ Florida Panthers
Philadelphia: 4/12 @ Pittsburgh Penguins, 4/13 v. Carolina Hurricanes
The first wild-card winner will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, then the winner of the New York Rangers and Flyers/Blue Jackets series in the second round.
The second wild-card winner will play the Boston Bruins in the first round, then the winner of the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning series in the second round.
Neither wild-card winner will have home-ice advantage in either of the first two rounds.
The common perception is that the Red Wings would have a greater chance of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals if they were placed into the Metropolitan division bracket, which makes sense by looking at each team’s point accumulation, but the Red Wings actually have a better record within the Atlantic division (of teams that made playoffs).
Record vs. Atlantic division playoff teams: 6-5-2
Record vs. Metropolitan division playoff teams: 3-7-2
It’s tough to deem one route through the playoffs as easier than the other, however, Detroit found much more success against the Bruins this season (3-1 record) than they have against the Penguins (1-1-1 record).
Regardless of who becomes Detroit’s first-round opponent, the Red Wings have fought their way into the playoffs for a 23rd-consecutive season and have played a great, last month of hockey in doing so. The Red Wings are 9-4-2 since March 14.
As for the health of the Red Wings moving forward, it doesn’t appear that Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery) or Jonathan Ericsson (broken finger) will be ready for the first round of the playoffs.
Zetterberg has returned to skating on his own but general manager Ken Holland said that the team won’t have an idea of when he’ll be ready until he practices with the team. The original eight-week timetable is still two weeks away.
If Detroit makes it out of the first round, Ericsson is scheduled to return at the start of the second round.
Interesting Note: Detroit is currently the only playoff team to have a negative goal differential on the season (-10) and the only playoff team in the Eastern Conference to have double-digit overtime loses (15).