Earlier today I broke down the Eastern Conference’s bottom three playoff spots and the four teams who have a good shot of filling them. My blog buddy Marty Vance took a look at the other end of the East spectrum, assessing which of the New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins had the best chance to nab the second seed in the conference.
At this point; looking at these schedules, how can you not assume the Penguins are going to be grabbing the 2nd seed? But look a little closer. I could easily see both Pittsburgh and New Jersey having identical 2-1 records going into Sunday, or even really, New Jersey could be ahead by 2 points, having their most difficult game in their finale, while Pittsburgh plays Washington tonight.
… I don’t think anybody wants that 4 seed, with a first rounder against Ottawa, then most likely heading to Washington in the 2nd. Yikes.
Marty predicts that the order will turn out to be New Jersey at No. 2 with Buffalo in the third spot and Pittsburgh getting the tough hand at No. 4. I must agree with him because the Devils’ well-earned (seriously, 6-0 against the Penguins? That’s insane.) tiebreaker over Pittsburgh very well might be the ultimate factor.
It borders on poetic that – at least at this moment – the Penguins and Devils have the exact same record even though Pittsburgh dropped every game to New Jersey. For Buffalo, I figure there isn’t nearly as much anxiety involved with being a second seed versus being a third. Naturally they’d prefer the second seed, but a matchup against Montreal might actually be less strenuous than a grind-it-out series against Boston.
You’ve got to love the fact that there’s plenty of meaningful hockey to be played in this final week of regular season action.
The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.
Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.
The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).
“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”
Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.
Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.
Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.
The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.
The first day of the playoffs is April 13.
Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made
Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.
This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.
“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”
Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.
Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.
Vigneault felt the hit was late.
“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.
Beleskey was not suspended.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.
From the NHL:
Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.
Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.
Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.
Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse