With the NHL trade deadline approaching, teams on the bubble will be desperate to make the final push for the wild card spots. It's always tough to predict who will make it and who will not, but current play and player depth can give an insight of who will claim the final spots.
The current battle for the wild card spots fall to the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and Florida (say what?) Panthers. The majority of hockey networks are debating wether the Panthers (who are currently 3 points behind Boston for that last spot) will be able to catch the Bruins. What they have not talked about is the current play of the Flyers as they have managed to accumulate some points as of late and are creeping up on the Panthers and Bruins.
As much as any hockey fan would love to see the bruising Flyers in the playoffs, I believe it will ultimately be the Bruins keeping the final spot. The Capitals hold the 1st wildcard and they are so far ahead in the standings that the second wildcard is the only one available in the eastern conference.
The Panthers simply do not have a good enough team to make the playoffs. Their stars are too young and their veterans don't really contribute (well most of them). The team just doesn't seem to be post season ready, as their re-build may be the result of a good Florida team next year instead of this one.
Erik Gudbranson & Dimitry Kulikov, two of Florida's young stars
The Flyers will not be able to catch up and Bruins fans will be thankful. Philadelphia doesn't really have balanced scoring across their forward lines, as it's Giroux, Voracek, and Simmonds leading the way. Their defence isn't good or deep enough either. The Bruins don't have these problems, but they are slumping because of poor team play in general. They will get their act together, and claim that playoff spot.
Wildcard falls to Boston, with Philadelphia and Florida close behind.
Unlike the East, the West is wide open in terms of playoff races. The standings are constantly changing, and the wildcard spots and division spots are being constantly fought over. The bubble teams currently include: The Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Calgary Flames. Maybe you can even count the Vancouver Canucks.
The Kings have struggled this season, and so have the Sharks. Calgary has beaten everyone's predictions this season as many believed they would be fighting for McDavid but instead they are fighting for a chance at Lord Stanley.
The first wildcard spot will be won by the Winnipeg Jets. They have performed amazingly this season, and their team is built for a playoff run. They have many players with size and are a team that will always hit everyone and anyone. They have a strong defence squad, which has welcomed the recent addition of Tyler Myers. Their blueline depth and their strong offence will prevail in the end, especially if they add stronger bottom six forwards at the deadline.
Tyler Myers of the Jets
The second spot could fall to either: The Flames, Kings, Sharks, or Wild. Los Angeles and San Jose are tied with 68 points, but since LA's record is better, they sit 3rd in the Pacific Division while San Jose is one spot below the last wildcard. That's how close the race is.
Ultimately it will likely fall to a Pacific Division team. Either the Flames will take it or LA/San Jose (depending who wins 3rd place in their division). I personally would love to see the Flames in the post season, as their strong defence could lead the way for them. So to make it clear: Either Los Angeles or San Jose will finish 3rd in the Pacific, and the loser will be battling Calgary for that last spot. Minnesota has to play too many super powers the rest of the season, and might fall in the standings because of it.
*Side note* The Western Conference standings could be changed again if Vancouver loses Miller to Injury and begins to slump. Who knows.