It's been perhaps the wildest postseason chase in recent memory, as we've entered the final game of the 82-game regular season schedule for all four of the Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins, all of whom are vying for the final 2024 NHL Playoffs Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Fans of the four respective teams had better strap themselves in for what is sure to be an exciting and nail-biting Tuesday evening of intensity, as everything will be decided in the next few hours.

Tuesday's schedule for the aforementioned teams is as follows:

  • Detroit Red Wings vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7:00 PM EST from Bell Centre
  • Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 7:00 PM EST from Wells Fargo Center

Meanwhile, the Penguins won't be in action until tomorrow night when they take on the New York Islanders at UBS Arena. The Islanders have already clinched a postseason spot, and it will be the 2nd straight year they'll meet the Carolina Hurricanes in Round 1.

NHL Playoffs Clinching/Elimination Scenarios

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) sits on the ice while taking a stick from Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) during the first period at PPG Paints Arena.
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

There are a variety of possible clinching and elimination scenarios that will play out tonight, and they can be viewed below. First, we'll start with the Red Wings.

Detroit will CLINCH their first NHL Playoff berth since 2016 if any of the following events take place:

  1. A regulation victory vs. the Canadiens
  2. A Washington loss (of any fashion, regulation, or otherwise) to the Flyers

Detroit will be ELIMINATED from playoff contention if any of the following events take place:

  1. A regulation loss to the Canadiens, OR:
  2. Earning only a single point against the Canadiens combined with the Capitals earning one point vs. the Flyers
  3. A Capitals win vs. the Flyers.

Washington will CLINCH a playoff berth if:

  1. They defeat the Flyers in any fashion. If this occurs, nothing Detroit does matters.

Washington will be ELIMINATED from NHL Playoffs contention if any of the following events take place:

  1. A regulation loss to the Flyers.
  2. The Red Wings earn one point against the Canadiens.

Pittsburgh will be ELIMINATED from playoff contention if any of the following events take place:

  1. The Red Wings defeat the Canadiens in any fashion
  2. The Capitals defeat the Flyers

Philadelphia will be ELIMINATED from playoff contention if any of the following events take place:

  1. Anything less than a regulation win vs. the Capitals
  2. The Red Wings earn a single point against the Canadiens

That is indeed plenty to keep track of. But it's become necessary thanks to the various paths the above teams have taken in recent weeks.

To kick things off, the Red Wings seemed to be in control at the end of February, enjoying a comfortable nine-point lead over the next-ranked team for a Wild Card spot, and even challenging the Maple Leafs for 3rd place in the division. However, a setback occurred when captain Dylan Larkin suffered an injury, sending the team into a tailspin. They lost seven consecutive games in regulation, and their lead quickly evaporated.

Meanwhile, the Penguins, who opted to make moves at the Trade Deadline by trading Jake Guentzel to the Hurricanes, experienced a surge in form. They won seven out of their next 10 games, largely thanks to the contributions of Michael Bunting, whom they acquired from Carolina. What's more, the Flyers went careening into a tailspin of their own, losing eight straight games and putting the status of head coach John Tortorella under scrutiny.

What an unbelievable roller coaster this race chase has been

It has been one of the most nerve-wracking postseason chases in recent memory, and the tension is reaching its peak tonight. For fans of teams already eliminated from playoff contention, they can only watch with envy as the remaining few squads still mathematically alive battle it out one last time for the opportunity to partake in professional sports' greatest thrill ride: the NHL Playoffs.

Indeed, it would be unwise to underestimate the chances of any of the teams vying for the final spot, given the remarkable upsets we've witnessed in recent years. Just last season, the Florida Panthers secured a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season and proceeded to eliminate the 65-win Boston Bruins in Round 1 in what was one of the most startling upsets in sports history. Their Cinderella-style run eventually led them to the Stanley Cup Final.

Get the popcorn and beers ready, because the final Wild Card postseason spot will be decided tonight!