Thanks to earning one point and having the Panthers keep Boston from earning any, Detroit clinched their 24th consecutive playoff berth on Thursday night. We now have one game left to go in the season to decide who will be our first round opponent. Let's look at how things could play out.
There are currently two playoff spots left in the East with three teams vying for them. Boston lost control of their own destiny by losing to Florida on Thursday night.
The Sens' magic number is one. If Ottawa loses to Philly in regulation and the Bruins beat Tampa in any fashion on Saturday, Boston gets in and Ottawa goes out.
Pittsburgh has two games remaining. They play the Islanders tonight and Buffalo tomorrow. If Pittsburgh only manages to get one point out of those two games and Boston wins in regulation on Saturday, the Bruins own the tiebreaker thanks to the way the head-to-head tiebreaker works. Boston lost in OT in the one home game they got, but beat Pittsburgh in regulation in the 2nd game in that city; the first game in Pittsburgh (OT win for Boston) doesn't count.
Boston cannot catch Detroit in the standings. Here's how the Wings' seeding could play out.
As of right now, Detroit sits third in the Atlantic. According to Sportsclubstats, they have an 83% chance of remaining there. That's a pretty easy scenario. Detroit sits one point ahead of Ottawa for that spot right now and the Senators cannot catch Detroit in the tiebreaker. The Sens play Philadelphia at 12:30 on Saturday. If Ottawa fails to earn two points, the Wings will have the third seed no matter what. If Ottawa earns two points, the Wings will need to earn at least one point against Carolina on Saturday night.
Wild Card 1 or 2
We have to see Ottawa win and Detroit lose on Saturday to consider a wild card spot. Every scenario for the wild card absolutely REQUIRES that Detroit loses and Ottawa wins on Saturday. From here, we have to worry about what happens with Pittsburgh. If the Pens somehow earn 1 or 0 points in their two games and Boston gets past them, the Wings will be the first wild card seed. If the Penguins earn two points in the next two games, but do so without picking up a ROW (two OT losses or one shootout win), Detroit would be the top wild card seed. If Pittsburgh wins one of their two remaining games in regulation or OT (or better) and the Red Wings fall to the wild card, Detroit would be the 2WC seed.
There is one path remaining to play the Rangers and two paths which could mean the Lightning or the Habs in round one for Detroit. With the Rangers, it's easy: If Detroit falls to the 8th-seed, they play New York in the first round. If they stay at 3rd in the Atlantic or fall to 1WC, they'll play either Tampa or Montreal. It's significantly more likely that the Wings get the road series against the Bolts.
How to get Tampa/Montreal
As previously discussed, the Wings have better than a 4-in-5 chance of being the Atlantic 3rd seed where they would play the Atlantic 2nd seed. The most-likely scenario is that Detroit ends up in 3rd and Tampa 2nd. Tampa plays Boston on Saturday while Montreal plays Toronto. It would take a Lightning win of any kind and a Montreal regulation loss for the Bolts to catch the Habs and win the Atlantic on the ROW tiebreaker. If Montreal earns a point or Tampa fails to get one, the Habs win the division.
If the Wings somehow end up behind Ottawa but in front of Pittsburgh or Boston, they would face the Atlantic Division winner as the first wild card seed.
Saturday should be an entertaining day of hockey. That's for sure.