Last night I chronicled the comparatively straightforward race for the Western Conference’s eighth seed. In the East, things are a lot more complicated; there are essentially four teams competing for the bottom three spots. The top team (Montreal) and bottom team (Atlanta) are only separated by five points. It’s close – really close – in other words.
Take a look at this fun little spreadsheet I made that summarizes the team’s remaining schedules, games against non-playoff teams (“softer games”), the games left against bubble teams and matches versus division title winners. It also includes useful information like the current/most points teams can reach and the current/maximum wins for each team. (From the Rink inspired the “maximum wins” inclusion and has a great rundown in its own right.)
I considered leaving Montreal and Atlanta out of the scenario for wildly different reasons. The Habs have the most points, are tied with the Flyers for the most wins (39) and finish the season with a fairly manageable last three games. On the other hand, the Thrashers are on life support with the least points, wins and a brutal closing schedule.
To me, it’s really about the last two spots going to two of the Rangers, Bruins and Flyers. The home-and-home between New York and Philadelphia might not necessarily cancel those two teams out (what with “charity” points) but could work out nicely for Boston. Clearly, the Bruins are going to be rooting against overtime in those games. If I had to pick two teams I would go with Boston (beating Carolina, squeezing one more point out of the two other games for 88 points) and Philadelphia (beating Toronto, winning once in regulation and losing once in overtime for 89 points). Then again, the Rangers have four games left and Henrik Lundqvist. Who knows.