Analyzing the race for the East's bottom 3 seeds

thrashflyers.jpgThe Eastern Conference’s lower seed situation is murky to say the least. The bottom three seeds could go to any combination of Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta or the Rangers. Some teams have better chances than others, but the 6th-seed Canadiens are only 6 points ahead of 10th place New York. With this muddy picture in mind, I thought, why not take a brief glimpse at the five contenders’ situations?

Each team is listed in order of their current (as of 7:30 pm ET) spot in the standings, in order of highest point total to the lowest.

Montreal

Notes: Tied with Philadelphia for most wins among the five (37), a useful tie-breaker. Only has six games left this season. Current point total: 82

Thoughts on their schedule: Six games left (3 at home, 3 on the road). One game against five contenders. One back to back (at Philadelphia then at home against Buffalo). Overall, their schedule is manageable. 

Streak: Lukewarm. They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games but lost four of their last five.

Boston

Notes: Eight games remaining, current point total: 80

Thoughts on their schedule: Four games at home and four games on the road for Boston. Two games against Buffalo and Two at Washington. Might be lucky with timing against Washington, though, since the Caps will probably already have the top seed wrapped up by the time the two teams play.

Streak: Lukewarm. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 but have won three of their last four (including two shutouts).

Philadelphia

Notes: Their 37 wins could help them in the event of tie-breaker situations. The team might be in trouble in net, but that might be more of a playoff worry than anything else. Current point total: 80

Thoughts on their schedule:Three road games remaining. Plays against Montreal once and then finishes the season with a potentially huge home-and-home with the Rangers.

Streak: Ice cold. They are 2-6-2 in their last 10 and are on a five game losing streak.

Jump for the two bubble threats: the Thrashers and the Rangers.


rangersbruins.jpgAtlanta

Notes: Have managed to stick around the playoff race despite a six game losing streak in the beginning to middle of March. No major advantages from a wins or games played standpoint. Current point total: 78

Thoughts on their schedule: Their closing schedule is downright brutal. First they play against bad-but-hot Toronto and Carolina, then they play their last five games against the East’s elite. That’s two games in Washington, two games against the Penguins and one against the Devils. My guess is that will be the end of the scrappy bunch.

Streak: Fairly hot. Although their 5-3-2 streak isn’t mesmerizing, they’ve won five of seven and squeezed 11 out of 14 possible points in that stretch.

New York Rangers

Notes: Need every point they can get. Current point total: 76

Thoughts on their schedule: They have four games left on a rough six-game road trip. If they can scrape together enough points, their home-and-home with Philadelphia could be a huge deal.

Streak: Cold. They are 4-4-2 in their last 10 and have lost four of six. On the bright side, they’ve managed 3 out of a possible 4 points during the first two games of their aforementioned six game road trip.

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    Rangers’ losing streak continues with OT defeat vs. Penguins

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    The New York Rangers needed a win.

    Their slow start is among the surprises early this season, as the Rangers have now lost four in a row with only one win to their record through seven games so far. They’ve had trouble scoring. Mistakes at inopportune moments have been costly.

    Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the Rangers had a brutal start and a brutal finish in a 5-4 overtime loss to their Metropolitan Division foes.

    Phil Kessel scored just 43 seconds into the game, utilizing that dangerous wrist shot off the rush to beat Henrik Lundqvist top corner. By the end of one period, it was 2-0 Pittsburgh.

    Despite a second-period comeback, with three goals in under three minutes, and taking the lead in the third period, the Rangers couldn’t hang on and the Penguins won in overtime.

    Sidney Crosby scored a crafty tying goal with only 56 seconds remaining in regulation, waiting for the Rangers defender to touch the puck negating what would’ve likely been called a hand pass on Pittsburgh before firing a no-look backhander toward the net from behind the red line. The puck deflected in off Lundqvist, helping send this one to overtime.

    Evgeni Malkin capped off a four-point night with the overtime winner.

    “Right now it’s a little bit challenging as far as putting a whole game together for us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault following the game. “But this group is very accountable … and I’m very confident that if we keep doing a lot of the things we’re doing right now, we’re going to be on the right track.”

    A trio of Rangers recorded their first goals of the season. That included David Desharnais, Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich, although the latter played less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, despite nearly four minutes in power play time, and of course the goal.

    The Rangers host the New York Islanders on Thursday. Another loss, and one has to wonder how hot the seat may be getting under Vigneault.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    Kucherov joins elite company with hot start, but Devils defeat Bolts

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    The Nikita Kucherov Show continues.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning star forward maintained his torrid pace Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils, scoring his eighth goal of the season — in just his seventh game.

    The Bolts took the lead in the second period on goals from Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, but couldn’t hang on and ultimately lost to the Devils (how about this start for New Jersey?) by a score of 5-4 in the shootout.

    There is no denying, however, that this has been a special start for the 24-year-old Kucherov and he has joined elite company as a result.

    That’s a perfect shot on Cory Schneider.

    Read more: Kucherov’s star continues to rise

    Kucherov also added an assist on Vladislav Namestnikov‘s beautiful first-period goal. The Devils, though, completed the comeback to continue their strong start to the season, both in wins and goals for. They entered Tuesday’s contest among the league leaders in scoring and surged out to an early lead following a wild five-goal first period.

    Drew Stafford opened the scoring for New Jersey and then tied it late in the third period. Kyle Palmieri scored the winner in the shootout.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Sharks

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    It’s been a difficult start to the season for both the San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens, however both clubs have an opportunity to change that beginning tonight.

    The Sharks host the Habs and you can catch the action on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or via the live stream.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

    Rangers, Sharks need to wake up from early slumps

    Canadiens looking to spark, not ‘bury’ Alex Galchenyuk after move to fourth line

    It’s early but the Habs are struggling to find the back of the net

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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    Video: Nolan Patrick’s sweet drop pass sets up Dale Weise

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    That was quite the second period for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

    The Flyers scored four straight goals to take a commanding lead, but Nolan Patrick put the exclamation point on the frenzied frame with this sweet drop pass to set up Dale Weise for Philadelphia’s fourth goal.

    That’s the second assist and third point of the season for the 19-year-old Patrick.

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    Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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