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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    Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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    The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

    “Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

    “That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

    More on the statue from the Devils:

    The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

    Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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    The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

    Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

    The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

    Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

    “It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

    “You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

    “We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

    The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

    Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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    In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

    After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

    The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

    — He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

    — From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

    — Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

    He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

    Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

    The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

    The Islanders also have a game in hand.

    Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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    The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

    As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

    Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

    In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.