The picture of the Stanley Cup playoffs is becoming clearer

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The image of the NHL playoffs comes into focus

With three nights remaining in the regular season, 15 of the 16 playoff appearances are now confirmed, while races for a number of important individual prizes loom large. Here is a look and what is certain after an eventful Tuesday evening and is still in the air:

Vegas is hanging by a thread. Last night’s most impressive result was Vegas’ 3-2 penalty shootout loss to Dallas. That left the Golden Knights, a top-three preseason Stanley Cup favorite, four points behind the Stars to earn the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference with two games remaining. Vegas must beat Chicago and St. Louis, and Dallas must lose home games to Arizona and Anaheim — a scenario with a 1.5 percent probability, according to MoneyPuck’s playoff odds. The Knights’ failure to beat Dallas last night also put some bits of the playoff picture in place, as you’ll see below.

Only three of the seven Canadian teams will be in the playoffs. Despite beating Seattle 5-2 last night, the Vancouver Canucks were officially eliminated from the postseason when Dallas defeated Vegas. Winnipeg, Montreal and Ottawa were already out. That leaves Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton as the three teams who have won the Stanley Cup for the first time since Montreal in 1993 with a chance to bring the Stanley Cup to Canada.

Edmonton plays Los Angeles in the first round. Toronto and Calgary’s opponents are still TBD. The Vegas loss ensured the idle Kings finished third in the Pacific Division. They will take on the Oilers, who earned second place (and home field advantage over the Kings) by beating Pittsburgh last night. Pacific champions Calgary are seeded No. 2 in the Western Conference and will face the better of the two wildcards – either Dallas or Nashville, who won a wildcard last night in Vegas. (If Vegas somehow pulls through, they’ll be the bottom wildcard and take on Colorado, which has secured the No. 1 seed.) Toronto finishes second in the Atlantic Division and has home advantage over its first-round opponent. That will likely be the two-time Stanley Cup winner Tampa Bay Lightning, although Boston (three points down and two to play) can still catch them.

Aside from Edmonton vs. LA, the only playoff match set in stone is Minnesota vs. St. Louis. They finish second and third in the Central Division, but order (and home field advantage) is still up in the air as these teams are tied on points.

The Presidents’ Trophy is still up for grabs. It’s a two-horse race between Colorado and Eastern Conference leaders Florida, who are almost neck and neck. The Avalanche closed the gap to two points last night by beating St. Louis while the Panthers lost to Boston. Both teams have two games left, but Florida have softer opponents: Ottawa and Montreal, compared to Nashville and Minnesota for the Avs.

The race down could also end up on the wire. The mirror image of the fight for the Presidents’ Trophy is also a two-team race. Montreal and Arizona are the only two clubs battling for last place in the league, meaning the best odds of winning the draft lottery. The Canadiens are certainly doing their “best” to sign top contender Shane Wright (a midfielder with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs), losing nine straight and falling two points behind the Coyotes. However, if you finish last, you still only have an 18.5 percent chance of winning the May 10 drawing.

Two major individual prizes were pretty much decided last night. Auston Matthews nearly secured his second consecutive Maurice Richard Trophy with his 59th and 60th goals in Toronto’s 3-0 win over Detroit. The 24-year-old is both the first Maple Leaf and first US-born player to score 60 goals in a season. He is the first player since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12. Matthews now has a five-point lead over Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, who has two games left.

Draisaitl’s teammate Connor McDavid has kept a stranglehold on the Art Ross Trophy race by earning four points in last night’s 5-1 win over Pittsburgh. With 122 points, McDavid is seven ahead of Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau, who has just two games left. The next three guys in the running are all from Canadian teams: Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau (113), Draisaitl (109) and Matthews (106). If McDavid wins, it will be the 25-year-old’s fourth title in six years. The only players with at least four Art Ross Trophies in their entire career are Wayne Gretzky (10), Gordie Howe (6), Mario Lemieux (6), Phil Esposito (5), Jaromir Jagr (5) and Stan Mikita (4). .

While the Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies appear to be settled, the Hart remains a guess. New York Rangers’ Matthews, McDavid and goaltender Igor Shesterkin stand out, but Gaudreau, Huberdeau, Draisaitl and 93-point Nashville defenseman Roman Josi are also in the mix. Read more about the seven top contenders for the Hart here.

Matthews becomes 1st Leaf to score 60 points in a season

Auston Matthews scored the number 59 and 60 goals in Toronto’s 3-0 win over Detroit on Tuesday. 1:59

Fast…

Canada secured a place in the playoffs at the Mixed Doubles World Curling Championship. Today’s 6-2 win over England put Jocelyn Peterman and Brett Gallant up 6-1. With two games remaining in their round-robin table in Switzerland, the Canadians are assured of a top-three spot in Group B and a spot in the six-team playoffs. Their only defeat was a 7-0 for Scotland who are on course to win the group and secure the semi-finals. The 2nd and 3rd place teams from each group have to play their way to the semi-finals. Canada completes their round-robin game schedule on Thursday against Australia (3-4) and the United States (4-3). The playoffs start on Friday, the final is on Saturday. Peterman and Gallant are attempting to become the first Canadian team to win the title in the 14-year history of mixed duals worlds. Read more about today’s win here and check out the highlights.

The CFL made some rule changes to improve scoring. Starting this year, hashmarks will be moved closer to the center of the field to give attackers more room to work. Also, teams take the ball at the 40-yard line after a field goal or single (it used to be the 35), kickoffs are pushed back five yards, and all no-yard penalties are 15 yards instead of five. The league is looking to add more players to the game after a troubled 2021 season that saw Winnipeg finish as the top team despite averaging just 23 offensive points per game. A few other minor rule changes were also introduced today, and you can read more about them here.

And finally…

Note: This Canadian is now in the top 10 earners in Danger! Story. Correct Answer: Who is Mattea Roach? The 23-year-old, who grew up in Halifax and now lives in Toronto, won her 16th straight game while the TV quiz show aired last night. This is the longest winning streak by a Canadian and eighth longest of all time. She still has a long way to go to match Ken Jennings’ record 74 games set in 2004, but Roach now ranks 10th in regular-season earnings with $368,981. She needs three more wins to secure a share of the sixth-longest winning streak and four more to equal the second-longest all-time by a woman. The women’s record belongs to Amy Schneider, whose 40-game streak ended in January. Read more about Roach here.

You are in the loop. talk to you tomorrow

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