This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
There are only two days left in the NHL regular season. We basically know all the playoff teams. What's kind of interesting, at least to me, is that there's a good chance that, based on goal differential, everything is going to shake out "properly" this season. In the Western Conference, the eight teams that are going to finish with a positive goal differential have all made the playoffs (this presumes that the Flames don't post a minus-7 goal differential in their final game). Every team that is going to miss the playoffs in the West could end up finishing with negative goal differentials (the Kings are a minus-4, so they could challenge that). The same thing could end up happening in the East. The Senators, who have a minus-2 goal differential, have the chance to make the postseason with a negative goal differential. Tampa, meanwhile, could miss out with a positive differential. If the Senators pick up a few goals, and the Lightning drop a few, it's possible that every team with a positive goal differential will make the playoffs, while every non-playoff team will have a negative goal differential.
I don't know if that has ever happened before. It does hit that part of the brain that likes things to have order, though. Everything in its right place, as Radiohead once sang. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go back to hoping that the Red Wings are able to win the final game at Joe Louis Arena while also not overtaking any teams in the standings in order to maximize their chances at a top three draft pick.
Capitals (PP: 3, PK: 7) at Bruins (PP: 7, PK: 1), 3:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Braden Holtby (42-12-6, 2.08, .925), Anton Khudobin (7-5-1, 2.56, .906)
Key Injuries:Jimmy Hayes (lower body), Torey Krug (lower body), Brad Marchand (suspension), Tim Schaller (lower body), John Carlson (lower body), Brett Connolly (illness)
The Bruins are a very different team without Tuukka Rask in net (and Rask hasn't even been that good this season, although he's been better recently). Khudobin's GAA isn't terrible, although that's only because Boston has allowed a mere 26.7 shots on goal per game. The Bruins will also be without both Marchand and Krug, which hurts their offense. I also wouldn't expect Boston to necessarily play like the league's best penalty kill with Khudobin in net. The Capitals are second in goals per game and first in goals against per contest. They've also locked up the President's Trophy, so they don't really have anything left to play for. That's the tricky nature of these games at the end of the season. We can't predict psychology. If Boston's penalty kill isn't up to its usual level, that could bode well for Marcus Johansson. He has 19 power-play points. Speaking of the power play, in 17 games with the Capitals, Kevin Shattenkirk has seven points with the extra man. He's also tallied 41 shots on goal in total. Without Krug and his 51 points, Boston's top scorer from the blueline is Zdeno Chara, who has 29 points. The Bruins may not have Marchand, but they still have David Pastrnak (34 goals and 70 points in 74 games).
Blackhawks (PP: 19, PK: 24) at Kings (PP: 16, PK: 5), 6:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Corey Crawford (32-18-3, 2.54, .919), Jonathan Quick (7-5-1, 2.15, .922)
Key Injuries:Artem Anisimov (lower body), Niklas Hjalmarsson (personal), Duncan Keith (rest), Matt Greene (undisclosed)
The Blackhawks rested Jonathan Toews, and they seem to be resting Keith as well. Although, if Keith is truly just being rested, it's always possible they put him back in the lineup. However, the Kings aren't an easy matchup. Their penalty kill has been quite impressive, and they've allowed a league-low 25.9 shots on goal per game. The Blackhawks may have the 24th-ranked penalty kill, but since the All-Star break they rank 12th, which is obviously much better. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin have both hit the 30-goal mark. Ryan Hartman has notched an arguably under-the-radar 19 goals in 75 games. However, he only has four goals in his last 19 contests. After a slow start, Anze Kopitar has 16 points, including eight on the power play, in his last 20 games. It wasn't enough to get the Kings into the playoffs, but Kopitar now has 49 points in 74 games. Remember Marian Gaborik? He's notched 10 goals and 11 assists in 54 games this season.
Penguins (PP: 5, PK: 19) at Maple Leafs (PP: 2, PK: 9), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Matt Murray (32-10-4, 2.41, .923), Frederik Andersen (33-16-14, 2.67, .918)
Key Injuries:Carl Hagelin (lower body), Chris Kunitz (lower body), Kris Letang (neck), Olli Maatta (hand), Evgeni Malkin (shoulder)
Toronto (32.8) and Pittsburgh (32.7) are third and fourth in shots allowed per game this season. The Penguins also top the league in shots on goal per contest (33.8) and the Maple Leafs are fourth (31.9). Basically, expect a lot of shots in this game. Both Murray and Andersen have had good years, but if enough pucks are put on net some goals are likely to squeeze through. This is especially true given how good both of these power plays have been. Sidney Crosby is going to win the Maurice Richard, as he's got 43 goals in 74 games. Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel have both had breakout years to provide Crosby and company with secondary scoring. Guentzel has eight goals and eight assists in his last 13 games, while Sheary has 18 points in his last 17 contests. Auston Matthews may join Crosby as a 40-goal scorer. He has 39 at the moment on 272 shots on goal. Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri, and William Nylander have all crossed the 60-point threshold. Connor Brown has tallied 19 goals, giving the Leafs even more young depth scoring.
Rangers (PP: 11, PK: 22) at Senators (PP: 23, PK: 23), 12:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Henrik Lundqvist (31-19-4, 2.74, .910), Craig Anderson (24-11-4, 2.31, .926)
Key Injuries:Nick Holden (undisclosed), Ryan McDonagh (undisclosed), Rick Nash (undisclosed), Mats Zuccarello (undisclosed), Erik Karlsson (undisclosed), Marc Methot (hand), Chris Neil (finger), Bobby Ryan (upper body), Zack Smith (upper body)
In his last five starts, Lundqvist has a 3.55 GAA and a .881 save percentage. Karlsson may not be around to take advantage of a potentially struggling King Henrik, but the trio of Mike Hoffman, Kyle Turris, and Mark Stone should be. Karlsson has 71 points this season to lead the Senators. Without him, Ottawa's top scoring defenseman is Dion Phaneuf, who has 30 points.
Blue Jackets (PP: 12, PK: 10) at Flyers (PP: 14, PK: 20), 12:30 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Sergei Bobrovsky (41-16-5, 2.02, .933), Steve Mason (25-21-8, 2.67, .908)
Key Injuries:Ryan Murray (hand), Zach Werenski (shoulder), Nick Cousins (upper body), Radko Gudas (concussion), Michal Neuvirth (upper body), Michael Raffl (lower body), Matt Read (upper body)
Both of these goalies have a chance to put one over on their old team. Only one of these netminders has had a good season, though. Bobrovsky has the best GAA and save percentage in the league. Since the All-Star break, the Jackets have the 29th-ranked penalty kill. Brayden Schenn has a whopping 28 points with the extra man in 77 games.
Islanders (PP: 28, PK: 12) at Devils (PP: 20, PK: 21), 6:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Thomas Greiss (25-18-5, 2.70, .913), Keith Kinkaid (8-12-3, 2.58, .920)
Key Injuries:Dalton Prout (suspension), Devante Smith-Pelly (lower body), Casey Cizikas (upper body), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Travis Hamonic (wrist), Nikolay Kulemin (upper body), Ryan Strome (wrist), John Tavares (lower body)
The Islanders are technically in the playoff race, but it's hard to imagine them pulling it off without Tavares. At least they still have Anders Lee, who has 31 goals. Of course, that's partially a result of Lee playing on a line with Tavares. Only three Devils have hit the 20-goal mark this season, led by Kyle Palmieri with 26.
Predators (PP: 15, PK: 17) at Jets (PP: 18, PK: 27), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Pekka Rinne (31-18-9, 2.43, .917), Connor Hellebuyck (25-19-4, 2.93, .906)
Key Injuries:Ryan Ellis (lower body), Vernon Fiddler (upper body), Mike Fisher (lower body), Colin Wilson (lower body), Toby Enstrom (knee), Shawn Matthias (shoulder), Tyler Myers (lower body), Ondrej Pavelec (knee), Paul Postma (abdomen)
P.K. Subban, who has 16 power-play points in 65 games, could take advantage of Winnipeg's lowly penalty kill. Viktor Arvidsson only has nine power-play points, but he has 31 goals on 245 shots so who can quibble? He's been arguably the league's most-surprising breakout player.
Canadiens (PP: 13, PK: 14) at Red Wings (PP: 27, PK: 15), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Al Montoya (8-6-4, 2.67, .912), Petr Mrazek (18-21-8, 3.05, .901)
Key Injuries:Andreas Athanasiou (undisclosed), Jonathan Ericsson (wrist), Luke Glendening (lower body), Anthony Mantha (finger), Drew Miller (illness), Ryan Sproul (knee), Joe Vitale (concussion), Jordie Benn (upper body), Alexei Emelin (lower body), Al Montoya (lower body), Shea Weber (lower body)
The Canadiens are the one team playing on the second night of a back-to-back Saturday. If Montoya can't play in this game, expect Charlie Lindgren to be in goal. The Habs have nothing to lose, and they aren't going to risk Carey Price. There is a Red Wing in the Recommended Pickup section. Tomas Tatar has nine goals and 14 points in his last 15 games.
Sabres (PP: 1, PK: 26) at Panthers (PP: 24, PK: 2), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Robin Lehner (23-25-8, 2.67, .920), James Reimer (16-16-5, 2.67, .915)
Key Injuries:Taylor Fedun (undisclosed), Marcus Foligno (knee), Johan Larsson (wrist), Kyle Okposo (illness), Aleksander Barkov (upper body), Aaron Ekblad (neck), Roberto Luongo (lower body)
Yes, the Panthers have the league's second-best penalty kill, but in his last 12 games Reimer has a 3.28 GAA and a .898 save percentage. Jack Eichel has 57 points (24 with the extra man) and 241 shots on goal. That looks good, until you realize he's done that in 59 games. Then it's incredibly impressive. Jonathan Marchessault has 30 goals in 73 games. Maybe he's the most-surprising breakout player this season.
Blues (PP: 8, PK: 4) at Hurricanes (PP: 21, PK: 6), 7:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Jake Allen (32-20-5, 2.43, .914), Cam Ward (26-22-11, 2.67, .906)
Key Injuries:Ryan Murphy (lower body), Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), Robby Fabbri (knee), Paul Stastny (lower body), Nail Yakupov (undisclosed)
A tale of two goalies going in opposite directions. In his last 17 games, Ward has a 2.99 GAA and a .900 save percentage. Meanwhile, in his last 24 contests, Allen has a 1.84 GAA and a .938 save percentage.
Avalanche (PP: 30, PK: 29) at Stars (PP: 22, PK: 30), 8:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Calvin Pickard (15-30-2, 2.98, .904), Kari Lehtonen (21-24-7, 2.85, .903)
Key Injuries:Mikko Rantanen (lower body), Semyon Varlamov (groin), Nikita Zadorov (ankle), Justin Dowling (upper body), Ales Hemsky (hip), Jiri Hudler (lower body), Mattias Janmark (knee), Brett Ritchie (lower body), Antoine Roussel (hand), Patrick Sharp (hip)
Ugh. The Avalanche are the worst at essentially everything except penalty kill, where they are lifted up by the fact somehow the Stars have been even worse. It's hard to imagine these two teams being anything but lifeless. And yet, a lifeless Dallas team could still put a few pucks past Pickard. Of course, the Stars don't have any really notable offensive players other than Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
Wild (PP: 10, PK: 8) at Coyotes (PP: 26, PK: 25), 9:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Darcy Kuemper (7-5-3, 3.26, .900), Mike Smith (19-25-9, 2.92, .914)
Key Injuries:Oliver Ekman-Larsson (personal), Brad Richardson (leg), Victor Bartley (triceps), Jared Spurgeon (lower body), Chris Stewart (illness)
Kuemper being in goal would bode well for the Coyotes. Max Domi has a four-game point streak, and thanks to Radim Vrbata the Coyotes actually have a 20-goal scorer. Eric Staal has at least one point in nine of his last 10 games. Arizona has allowed 34.0 shots on net per contest. That should mean plenty of shots for the Wild.
Oilers (PP: 6, PK: 16) at Canucks (PP: 29, PK: 28), 10:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Cam Talbot (41-22-8, 2.39, .919), Ryan Miller (18-28-6, 2.80, .914)
Key Injuries:Andrew Ference (hip), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Loui Eriksson (lower body), Brendan Gaunce (undisclosed), Markus Granlund (wrist), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Jacob Markstrom (knee), Anton Rodin (knee), Jack Skille (ankle)
Oscar Klefbom picked up four assists in his last game. He's also tallied 201 shots on goal in 80 games. Connor McDavid needs three points in his last two games to hit the 100-point mark. He'll be the only NHL to do so if he makes it happen. The Sedin twins both have 15 goals in 80 games. That feels fitting.
Flames (PP: 9, PK: 11) at Sharks (PP: 25, PK: 18), 10:00 p.m.
Expected Goalies:Brian Elliott (26-17-3, 2.55, .910), Martin Jones (35-23-6, 2.40, .912)
Key Injuries:Chad Johnson (lower body), Logan Couture (mouth), Joe Thornton (knee)
The Flames have 12 players with at least 12 goals. Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski both have 29 goals. Will Burns be the rare defenseman to hit the 30-goal mark? He's taken a staggering 315 shots on goal. That's incredibly impressive in and of itself.
Dylan Larkin, C, DET – Larkin has two games left this season, both at home, and one of those games is with the New Jersey Devils. While Larkin had a bit of a sophomore slump, he has tallied 16 goals on 175 shots in 78 games. He also has 11 points in his last 18 games, and in that time his minutes are up as well (17:18 per game). There's only two days left in the regular season, and Larkin has games on both days. Maybe he took a step down from his rookie season, but the 20-year-old still has a lot of talent.