The Eastern Conference playoff race will still carry at least a little more drama after the New York Rangers lost to the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Tuesday.
The Winnipeg Jets lost in regulation to the Washington Capitals earlier, opening the door for the Rangers to lock things up with a win of any kind. The Rangers still have a major advantage to get things done, but it’s not a sure thing.
They also greatly increased their chances of facing the Pittsburgh Penguins instead of the fading winner of the Northeast Division in the first round:
7. Ottawa – 52 points with three games left (19 regulation/OT wins)
8. NY Rangers – 52 points with two games left (20 ROW)
9. Winnipeg – 51 points with one game left (22 ROW)
The Jets hold the league’s first tiebreaker (ROW), which means that the Rangers wouldn’t necessarily guarantee a spot with a single charity point. Two would work, even though it might make John Tortorella reach a new level of unpleasant.
The Senators also lack that ROW advantage over Winnipeg, although they’d have to fall apart in a near-historic way to fail. You never know, though.
Let’s take a look at the closing schedule for the three teams fighting for the final two spots:
Thursday: at Washington
Saturday: Home vs. Philadelphia
Sunday: at Boston
Thursday: at Carolina
Saturday: at New Jersey
Thursday: at Montreal
So, basically, this potentially frenetic finish should be a lot of hockey devotees who aren’t Senators, Rangers and Jets fans.