Who Make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference?

TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button joined Jay Onrait on SportsCenter earlier in the week and was asked for his opinion on who would take the final two spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

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Jay Onrait: “Let’s take an even deeper dive into the Eastern Conference playoff race. With our good friend, the impeccably dressed Craig Button from Calgary. Craig, the Red Wings get the win on Sunday. They get back into that final wildcard spot position ahead of the Penguins, and yet this could change at any moment, as we will see in these standings.

I want to show this to Craig, two spots up for grabs, as you know, third in the Metro, and then that final wildcard spot, and it could flip-flop at any time. The Islanders now third, in the Metro, Detroit, those two teams have those spots.

I mean, at the end of the day, anything could happen. It’s gonna be a fun race down the stretch, but in your mind, Craig, just seeing what you’ve seen this season and knowing what we have ahead of us. Every team has four or five games left. Which two teams would you bet on to hold on to those two spots and get into the postseason?”

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Craig Button: “I think you’re very liberal using the word race here when talking about those two final playoff spots because it’s done at a snail’s pace. I mean, there are teams that have certainly, like, had a hold on playoff position, and then they fell right off. So you asked me who I think we’ll find their way into the playoffs. I think it’ll be the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And now it takes begs the question, why do you say that? Craig? I’ll tell you why. Because at this point in the season, it’s about who’s playing the best. It’s about who’s finding ways to win. And that’s exactly what the Islanders and the Penguins are doing. Why would I bet on any of those other teams, all they’ve shown me is they can’t hold on to a playoff spot. They can’t find a way to win.

You said earlier introducing me, we’re gonna go into a deep dive. Do you know what the three teams, Detroit, Washington and the Philadelphia Flyers, have been? They’ve been in a deep dive. They were in a playoff spot.”

Onrait: “It’s Craig, and I want to talk a little bit more about the Penguins and Islanders. They’re your picks, and yet, almost no one had them getting into these two spots. At the beginning of March, the Islanders were six points out, the Penguins were eight points out, and the Penguins traded Jake Guentzel. End of story, they didn’t think they were gonna make it. So, in your mind, Craig, what is it that allowed those two teams to play this well and get themselves into this position?”

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Button: “A hot mess that you could describe of the play of the Detroit Red Wings, the Philadelphia Flyers in the Washington Capitals. So, let’s just look at the last seven games. The Detroit Red Wings with their win on Sunday 2-4-2 (after a loss on Tuesday to Washington).

The Philadelphia Flyers, in their seven games (eight after Tuesday night are 0-6-2). The Washington Capitals, in their six games with their overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators, are 0-4-2. (That record is now 1-4-2 after their win over Detroit on Tuesday). Like you’re just falling right off.

So, you know, you have to open up the door for other teams, and certainly, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders have taken advantage of it. But this has been an exercise in futility for the Red Wins, the Flyers, and the Washington Capitals. They were home and cooled out, so to speak, and then they decided, well, maybe we won’t win so many games, maybe we’ll find ways to lose games, and they have done it in all kinds of different ways. They’ve done it; with consecutive losses.

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I just mentioned the streak that they run into. And if you go all the way back to just before March 1, these teams have not played very well. And that opens up the door for other teams.

So when he asked me who’s gonna make the playoffs, I’m betting on the teams that have found a way to win games. I’m not betting on the teams that continue to show that they’re going to find ways to lose; they’re not playoff-worthy, in my view.”

Onrait: “I think you make very fair points. Now, I do want to provide a silver lining to Flyers fans and Washington Capitals fans out there. Your teams do have the easiest remaining schedules, but they are not many games left. Pittsburgh actually has the toughest schedule and as Craig said they’re playing great hockey right now. Craig Button, you’re the best. Thanks my friend.”