We’re not at the point where a bad night will be the final straw for most of the top bubble teams in the East, but Tuesday did give the impression that the field is narrowing down.
As painful as tonight might be for the Boston Bruins, they likely feel a lot better than some squads who were hoping to make gains for the final wild card berth. Let’s go through some of the upsets for teams who couldn’t really afford to stumble.
Coyotes 5, Lightning 3
With the Maple Leafs and Islanders idle, the Bolts had a chance to make up ground against a team that might be best served losing. Instead, Arizona played the spoiler role on Tuesday.
Tampa Bay headed into the third period with a 3-2 lead, yet the Coyotes managed three unanswered goals to upset the Lightning.
Jets 3, Flyers 2
Winnipeg technically isn’t out of it altogether in the West … but their situation really wasn’t that different from the long odds Philly faces. Especially not now.
Hurricanes 4, Panthers 3
Really, Carolina’s chances aren’t that different from those of the Lightning after tonight.
Again, opinions about how many teams actually have a chance to make a run will very with about 10-or-so games remaining in the regular season. Here’s how the final wild card race looks, with the Bruins included just to be thorough.
Third in Atlantic: Bruins – 82 points in 73 games played (lost to Ottawa)
Final wild card spot: Maple Leafs – 81 points in 71 GP
Islanders – 78 points in 71 GP
Lightning – 77 points in 72 GP
Hurricanes – 75 points in 71 GP
Flyers – 74 points in 72 GP
Panthers – 73 points in 72 GP
Sabres – 72 points in 74 GP
Red Wings – 69 points in 72 GP
Devils – 66 points in 72 GP
Yep, tonight’s losses could indeed be costly for the Lightning, Flyers and Panthers.