Point: Why Boston will make the playoffs

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Boston Bruins vs. New York Rangers

12:30 p.m. EST – Sunday, March 21, 2010
Live on NBC
The most important thing to remember here is: the Eastern Conference isn’t very good, particularly after you pass the handful of elites at the top. Just look at it this way; the 11th and 12th ranked West teams would be tied with Boston for a playoff spot right now. So, in other words, gaining a spot doesn’t require a team to achieve some lofty status.
Let me run down a few reasons why the Bruins will make the playoffs.
1. They have the lead
That might seem overly simplistic, but with only 11-12 games left for each team, a 3 point lead might be just enough of a cushion for the mediocre Bruins to hold off the mediocre Rangers and Thrashers. Especially when considering the other factors.

2. They have a better schedule
For one thing, Boston can really seal this up in the next few days: they play the Rangers on Sunday and then in Atlanta on Tuesday. But looking deeper, the Bruins simply have an easier finish than their two competitors.
You might as well cross Atlanta off the list right after you glance at this brutal five-game stretch to end their season: @Washington, @Pittsburgh, home against New Jersey, @Washington and home against Pittsburgh. Good luck with that, Atlanta.
The Rangers have it a bit easier opponents-wise, but they play eight of their last 11 games on the road. This includes a six game road trip. The Bruins have it much easier: they play seven out of their remaining 12 games at home and see no more than two games in a row on the road.
3. They are resilient
With all the harsh criticism this team has faced, few have given them much credit for fighting through bumps in the road. They might not earn many style points with the way they play right now, but they’ve been hanging tough all season long. Personally, I think they have what it takes to hold off Atlanta and New York.
So, that’s why the Bruins will make it to the playoffs. Stay tuned for takes on why Atlanta and New York will make it instead.

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    Hitchcock believes Blues’ Allen is ‘locked up mentally’

    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes the third period save against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 8, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Things were already rough for the St. Louis Blues and their goalies (particularly still-pretty-newly crowned No. 1 Jake Allen) heading into Thursday, but the Washington Capitals really highlighted those issues in a 7-3 thrashing.

    Blues fans and management must be wondering, then: what’s wrong with their goalies, especially with Allen? Head coach Ken Hitchcock seems resigned to allowing him to fight through it, if nothing else.

    “There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, according to Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”

    Alex Pietrangelo did the typical deflecting thing, nothing that this is a “team” and that there are “no individuals.”

    Still, Hitchcock’s longer press conference makes you wonder how much trust there is in Allen and Carter Hutton.

    From Hitch’s perspective, it sure sounds like he believes that the Blues are over-correcting to try to limit “goals, shots.” By trying to do too much, they might be putting themselves in bad positions. And that might stem from a lack of confidence in the guys in net, or in the team’s work in their own zone overall.

    Let’s be honest. As much as we can play chicken-or-the-egg as far as a defense’s impact on a goalie, it’s tough to explain away save percentages under .900 in the modern NHL. At some point, your team needs more stops.

    With the races for the lower spots in the Western Conference’s playoff picture seemingly tightening up, the Blues don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.

    Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

    ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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    If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

    It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

    Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

    Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
    Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

    Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

    Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

    Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

    Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

    Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

    Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

    TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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    Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

    The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

    Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.

    Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

    The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

    So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

    OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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    Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

    Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

    The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

    Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

    Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

    This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

    More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.