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NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Picture: Devils, Maple Leafs Teetering On The Brink

With teams all around them clinching playoff berths in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils’ postseason prospects took a major hit on Monday when they were shutout 1-0 by the Calgary Flames.

With three games remaining on their schedule and five of the eight spots already secured, the Devils are going to need a lot of help to sneak into the playoffs this year.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were similarly hobbled with a 4-2 loss against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. Much like the Flames, the Jets are comfortably entrenched in the basement of the Western Conference, without even a prayer of making the postseason.

Among the teams ahead of them, currently in the sixth seed, are the Philadelphia Flyers. They’ve got a comfortable five-point lead over the Devils with four games to play, only needing a single win in their final four to clinch.

Next up are the Detroit Red Wings, who are, like most of the Eastern Conference, currently riding a one-game losing streak. They’ve got a four-point edge over the Leafs and Devils and the advantage of having their last four games against teams with nothing to play for.

The Wings have struggled through most of the season, but have been so solid over the last two decades that it’s been hard to believe at any point that they wouldn’t eventually right the ship. And if you don’t think they could surprise the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, think again.

The best chance for the Leafs and the Devils to stumble into the playoffs is at the expense of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have qualified for the postseason just once since blinking into existence as an expansion team for the 2000-01 season.

The Blue Jackets have four games remaining, two against Western Conference teams that are battling for a Wild Card position. There’s a realistic chance they’ll drop at least three and an outside chance they’ll drop all four.

Both the Devils and the Leafs finish the season playing three teams with nothing tangible to play for. The difference being that one of those teams for the Devils in the Boston Bruins, who have been undeniably dominant this season.

They each have one week and three games remaining to make their case—all for the privilege of facing the Bruins in the quarterfinals. Worst…prize…ever.

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