10 must-watch NHL games in final weeks of 2023-24 season

NHL: Boston Bruins at Florida Panthers
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

There are 132 games left in the NHL season, and seven of the 16 playoff spots have already been secured. Meanwhile, the Presidents’ Trophy race is far from over, with five teams collecting 100 points and seven more on the verge of reaching that plateau.

Additionally, there are no clear-cut winners for the Art Ross, Hart, and Vezina Trophies. Therefore, the final 18 days of the regular season will be exciting to watch. Whether Connor McDavid faces off against Nathan MacKinnon or the Boston Bruins battle the Florida Panthers for the Atlantic Division crown, there will be at least one game a night worth tuning into.

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NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Winnipeg Jets
Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Tues. April 2 – Vancouver Canucks at Vegas Golden Knights

The Vancouver Canucks had the luxury of leading the Western Conference for the majority of the season. However, they have seen teams in the Central Division bypass them in the standings, giving fans of the Edmonton Oilers hope that their team could overcome a four-point deficit and unseat the Canucks for the Pacific Division title.

On April 2, the Vegas Golden Knights (90 points) will welcome Canucks to T-Mobile Arena in what could be an impactful game for the divisional standings. If the Golden Knights, 7-2-1 in their past 10, can defeat the Canucks, they would win the season series (2-1-0) and keep up the momentum as they prepare tp make a run at their second straight Stanley Cup championship. They’re also only four points behind the Oilers for second in the Pacific.

Wed. April 3 – Edmonton Oilers at Dallas Stars

McDavid and the Oilers will travel to Dallas to face the Western Conference’s top team (103 points) in a marquee Wednesday night showdown. In one of the toughest tests remaining on its schedule, Edmonton will look to plant a seed of doubt by defeating Dallas on its home ice in what could be a Western Conference Final preview.

Considering how close the reigning Hart Trophy winner is to collecting 100 assists this season, McDavid (96 assists) has earned 18 helpers in 20 career games against the Stars. After a contest against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, he could be one step closer to becoming only the fourth player to achieve that feat in League history, joing Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux.

Thur. April 4 – Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals

Although more important games are left in the season’s final two and half weeks, the matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals on April 4 is a sentimental contest that the hockey world should watch. For the final time in 2023-24, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will face off against one another.

After a slow start, Ovechkin has been on a tear recently, getting within 46 goals of Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894. Meanwhile, Crosby continues to be the poster boy for consistency and is less than five assists from becoming only the 14th player in NHL history to reach 1,000. Even though the Penguins will not qualify for the playoffs, the Capitals are still fighting for a postseason opportunity, making this a fun, and important, contest to track.

Fri. April 5 – Colorado Avalanche at Edmonton Oilers

MacKinnon (127 points) and Nikita Kucherov (126) have battled for the Art Ross all season long and were the only two players within striking distance of one another until McDavid stepped up his play after the NHL All-Star Game. Now, McDavid (125) is on the cusp of unseating both skaters and capturing the Art Ross Trophy for the fourth consecutive season and the sixth time in his nine-year career.

After already setting career highs in goals, assists, and points, MacKinnon is not ready to miss his first opportunity to win a scoring title. Although both McDavid and MacKinnon have to worry about Kucherov, this particular game could also be a potential Western Conference Final rematch from 2022, when the Avalanche eliminated the Oilers and went on to win the Stanley Cup. Colorado beat Edmonton 3-2 in the the first meeting between these Western Conference heavyweights on March 16.

Sat. April 6 – Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins

Last season, the Boston Bruins won the most games (65) and earned the most points (135) in NHL history, only to be upset by the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of their first-round matchup. This season, the Bruins have bounced back from that ugly series loss to earn a 3-0-0 record against the Panthers.

As only two points separate Boston and Florida in the Atlantic Division, this contest will significantly impact which team finishes first and a more favorable first-round series instead of potentially lining up against the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sun. April 7 – Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche won the Central Division by a single point, 109-108, over the Stars last season. So far in 2023-24, Colorado is 2-0-0 against Dallas and is within three points of catching their rivals in hopes of repeating as division champions. Considering these teams are part of the seven with 100 points, this Sunday night matchup will be one of the most exciting games to watch, with significant Stanley Cup playoff implications on the line.

Sat. April 10 – Edmonton Oilers at Vegas Golden Knights

Last spring, the Golden Knights defeated the Oilers in six games in their second-round playoff series en route to capturing the Stanley Cup in June. This season, the Oilers have been ahead of the reigning champions in the standings for the past few months, and Vegas has struggled to remain competitive with many injuries.

However, the Golden Knights are mounting a comeback. After spending weeks in a wild-card position, they are close to surpassing the Oilers in the Pacific Division, and this game will be one of the decisive factors in how the regular season ends. So far, in two meetings, the teams have split their season series, with this final contest serving as the tiebreaker.

Sat. April 13 – Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers have been one of the best teams in the NHL since firing Jay Woodcroft and bringing in Kris Knoblauch as coach. In the first three meetings, which occurred during Woodcroft’s tenure, the Canucks dismantled the Oilers, racking up a 3-0-0 record and an 18-6 advantage on the scoreboard.

Since then, Edmonton has won more games, scored more points, and have a better goal differential, even though Vancouver has maintained its spot atop the Pacific Division. In one of the season’s most important games for both clubs, this is a must-win for each. Meanwhile, if both the Canucks and Oilers advance, this would be a preview of a second-round matchup in early May.

Tues. April 16 – Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers

Suppose the Atlantic Division standings remain the same, with the Bruins at the top, the Panthers in second place, and the Maple Leafs in third. In that case, we will be treated to an early first-round playoff matchup when the Maple Leafs visit the Panthers on the second-to-last day of the regular season.

By then, all eyes may be on Auston Matthews and his pursuit of 70 goals, and Sergei Bobrovsky, who may be locking up his third Vezina Trophy. No matter what the stakes are in this final meeting of the season, if everything stays the same, it will only be a preview of what will happen days after the regular season ends.

Thurs. April 18 – Edmonton Oilers at Colorado Avalanche

As mentioned earlier, the Oilers and Avalanche will meet in one of the most anticipated contests in early April. Although their matchup on April 5 will cause a ripple effect on how the final 13 days of the regular season play out, this finale on April 18 may determine the top spot in the Western Conference, Pacific Division, Central Division, and the Art Ross Trophy race.

Considering the significance of this game, no one will want to miss it unless they are injured. So much will be on the line, impacting the regular season and the Stanley Cup bracket.

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