Carolina has 112 points and 52 wins. Ottawa has 111 points and 51 wins. Each team has one game to play. There are nine different ways things could pan out with respect to those two games. Seven of them would result in the Canes nabbing the #1 seed.
- Ottawa reg. loss, Carolina reg. loss -- Carolina 112-Ottawa 111
- Ottawa reg. loss, Carolina OT loss -- Carolina 113-Ottawa 111
- Ottawa reg. loss, Carolina win -- Carolina 114-Ottawa 111
- Ottawa OT loss, Carolina reg. loss -- Carolina 112-Ottawa 112¹
- Ottawa OT loss, Carolina OT loss -- Carolina 113-Ottawa 112
- Ottawa OT loss, Carolina win -- Carolina 114-Ottawa 112
- Ottawa win, Carolina reg. loss -- Ottawa 113-Carolina 112
- Ottawa win, Carolina OT loss -- Ottawa 113-Carolina 113²
- Ottawa win, Carolina win -- Carolina 114-Ottawa 113
At the bottom, things are a little mucky too. Montréal, Tampa and Atlanta are all fighting for two available spots. Montréal has 93 points with one game to play. Tampa has 92 with one game to play. Atlanta has 89 with two to play. Montréal needs only to earn one point OR watch Atlanta lose just one of their two games (regulation or OT). If they win, they will have the seventh spot. Tampa needs to win OR watch Atlanta lose one of their games.
Atlanta needs to win both games (at Washington, at Florida) AND get a little help. If Tampa should lose to Washington in regulation, or Montréal lose to New Jersey in regulation, that will be the help they need. However, the bulk of the work will be theirs. They will have to win both remaining games.
There are even further complications about who will be seventh and who will be eighth.
Now, here's the rub. If things work out for Carolina, and they end up with the #1 seed, they will be most likely be playing Tampa. Or if Atlanta can finish their miracle run, they will face the Thrash. Neither is a very savory choice. The Canes would much rather face the Habs in the first round. There is a way for Carolina to be #1 and Montréal #8, but the only way is if Atlanta wins out AND Tampa and Montréal both lose.
And to make things even crazier, Philly has a chance of overtaking the Rangers for the Atlantic Division title. They would swap third and fifth places in the seedings. Philly only trails the Rangers by one point, and they have a game in hand. For that matter, New Jersey could also overtake the Rangers. They trail by three, but have two games remaining to New York's one.
My head is aching from all that. Only one thing is certain in the East. Buffalo will have the #4 seed. That can't change. Every other seed is up in the air. Two teams fighting for the 1 seed. Three fighting for the 3 seed and three fighting for the 7 and 8 seeds.
Meanwhile, out west, things are pretty much set. The only issue in question is whether Anaheim or Colorado will be the six seed.
¹ In this scenario, the teams are tied with 112 points, but Carolina wins the tiebreaker by having more wins.
² In this scenario, the teams are tied with 113 points. Ottawa wins the tiebreaker by having a better cumulative goal differential.