Playoff probabilities can change tonight

A win over the Penguins tonight would put the Flyers in a good position to win the Eastern Conference. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

PITTSBURGH -- Take a look at the latest Eastern Conference standings.

Notice anything different over the last few weeks?

The playoff field, for the first time this season, seems to have finally taken shape as the NHL enters the last week of the regular season.

A full 5 points separate 8th place Buffalo from 9th place Carolina. And the two teams have played the same number of games.

The Hurricanes have just a 13 percent shot to make the playoffs. Toronto, Atlanta and New Jersey all have less than a 1 percent chance to make it. The Islanders, Panthers and Senators have all been officially eliminated.

No matter what happens tonight at the Consol Energy Center, the Flyers will still wake up tomorrow atop the East, as they have a game in-hand over both Pittsburgh and Washington.

With that’s said, let’s look at the probabilities for the remainder of the Eastern Conference. We’ll see each team by where they have the best chance of finishing:

1. Flyers: 61% to win the East. 29% chance to finish 4th. Cannot finish lower than 5th.
2. Washington: 59% to finish 2nd. 25% to finish 3rd.
3. Boston: 71% to finish 3rd.

4. Pittsburgh: 67% to finish 4th

5. Tampa Bay: 68% to finish 5th
6. N.Y. Rangers: 43% to finish 6th, 28% to finish 7th, 16% to finish 8th.
7. Montreal: 42% to finish 7th, 16% to finish 8th.
8. Buffalo: 54% to finish 8th, 21% to finish 7th, 11% to miss playoffs.

Those numbers, courtesy of, are based on past performances against the teams remaining on each schedule. 

They also differ from the current standings, as the Rangers are the 7th seed right now and Montreal holds the 6th spot. But this is the way those probabilities play out.

The Flyers are down to 3 opponents if they finish with the No. 1 seed: Buffalo, the Rangers, and Montreal. If they finish at No. 4, they'd lock up with Tampa Bay.

So, here are the most probable first round matchups:

1. Philadelphia vs.
 8. Buffalo
Notes: One game remaining between two teams, Flyers lead series 2-1-0.

2. Washington vs. 
7. Montreal
Notes: Montreal bounced Washington in the first round last season as #8 seed.

3. Boston vs. 
6. N.Y. Rangers
Notes: Boston still has one game in-hand over New York.

4. Pittsburgh vs. 
5. Tampa Bay
Notes: Tampa Bay led season series 2-1-0.

Here’s where things get interesting, though:

What happens to the probabilities if the Flyers drop tonight’s game against the Penguins? Even with a game in-hand over Pittsburgh, that 29% chance to finish 4th in the East will skyrocket.

Sergei Bobrovsky will make his third start of the season at the Consol Energy Center tonight.

With a Flyers regulation win, they will have something like an 80% chance to win the No. 1 spot. With any overtime action, the numbers would not change much. With a Flyers regulation loss, it will be near a 50-50 toss-up for No. 1. That's the potential swing factor.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers.

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