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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    Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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    You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

    The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

    (Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

    Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

    The penalty element is interesting, though.

    When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

    The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

    via Natural Stat Trick

    It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

    Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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    It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

    Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

    It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

    Judge for yourself in the highlights:

    The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

    If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

    Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

    (Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

    The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

    It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

    Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

    Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

    The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

    Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

    Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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    Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

    Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

    That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

    Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

    Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

    Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

    Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.