Tag: Eastern Conference playoff races

Buffalo Sabres v Winnipeg Jets

Jets win big bubble battle vs. Buffalo


The Jets might not be the most balanced team, but unless you’re a jilted Atlanta Thrashers fan, it’s pretty tough to argue with the magic they can conjure in Winnipeg.

Tonight provided another example of that special sensation. The Buffalo Sabres tied a tight game up 1-1 late in the second period, but it didn’t crush the Jets’ spirit. They wore down what seemed to be a withering Buffalo team in an impressive third period as Blake Wheeler and Chris Thorburn scored thrilling goals to generate a 3-1 win. (Cam Charron broke down the Jets’ impressive third period in a way that made my brain melt a little here.)

Bubble update

This game keeps the Jets healthy while bumping Buffalo’s shaky hopes down a peg. Here’s a quick look at the East’s bottom seed situation after Winnipeg’s win.

8. Winnipeg: 72 points, 32 wins (28 in regulation/OT) with 15 games remaining

9. Washington: 69 points, 32 wins (31 in regulation/OT) with 17 GR
10. Tampa Bay: 68 points, 31 wins (29 in regulation/OT) with 17 GR
11. Buffalo: 68 points, 30 wins (24 in regulation/OT) with 16 GR
12. Toronto: 67 points, 30 wins (27 in regulation/OT) with 17 GR

Note: you could probably reach for the New York Islanders too, but let’s keep it simple for now.

Looking at the standings, the Jets certainly made the Sabres a lesser threat tonight. Washington and Tampa Bay seem to bring similar strengths as challengers from a tie-breaker standpoint, with the Capitals holding a slight lead while the Lightning carry a lot more momentum.


Again, it’s charming to see the Jets make a real “go” of this run, but their road record is the elephant in the room. They’re not alone in the lowly Southeast, however, as the Florida Panthers are the only team with a respectable away mark (15 road wins) compared to 11 for the Jets, Capitals and Lightning.

As great as it would be for Winnipeg fans to see the team make it to the playoffs in its first season back in the NHL, that run could be awfully short if this home-road disparity doesn’t clear up.

Capitals flop again as Devils dominate them 5-0

New Jersey Devils v Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals still have a great chance to make the playoffs, but Friday stopped a momentum-building week with a thud. The New Jersey Devils slammed the door harshly on the Caps’ three-game winning streak, handing them a 5-0 defeat in another non-statement game for Washington.

Zach Parise got banged up a bit in the contest, but not before scoring a hat trick by the three-minute mark of the second period. It turned out that New Jersey would only need his first tally, which came on the power-play in the first frame.

Playoff implications

While the Philadelphia Flyers hold the tie-breaker because they have an extra game in hand, Philly and New Jersey are essentially tied for fifth place in the East with 77 points.

The Capitals squandered an opportunity to take Winnipeg’s eighth spot as the Jets remain ahead of them with 70 to the Caps’ 69 standings points. Washington still has two games in hand, but a loss like this could set up a photo finish.

It might not just be between Washington and Winnipeg, either. The Toronto Maple Leafs made a desperate plea to get in the mix by changing head coaches while the Tampa Bay Lightning just beat the New York Rangers 4-3 in overtime to climb into 10th place with 67 points.

There’s still more than a month to go, but if the Caps fail to make the postseason, they’ll look at games like these will plenty of remorse.

Karlsson shines, Vokoun flops as Sens and Caps move in opposite directions

Ottawa Senators v New York Islanders

The hockey world can debate the merits of blowing the Washington Capitals up, but the team probably feels like Wile E. Coyote after a typical failed detonation right now.

The Capitals had their chances, but the Ottawa Senators took advantage of some great work by Erik Karlsson and another lousy outing by Tomas Vokoun to take a 4-0 lead that made life rather glum for Alex Ovechkin-less Washington. Vokoun was pulled for the second consecutive game and while Michal Neuvirth looked good and Washington saved some face (the final score ended up 5-2), it’s hard to find many positives for the decrepit D.C. denizens.

While Dale Hunter spoke of the need to “cover up” for Vokoun, the Senators are rejoicing in Karlsson’s explosive offensive season. The splendid sophomore Swede scored three points including two assists, setting a new franchise mark with 47 on the season. His 60 points leads NHL defensemen by a huge margin and Karlsson’s been particularly hot lately, with a dizzying five goals and seven assists in his last five contests.

Karlsson likely has a lot to learn in his own end, but his offensive production might just make him the new Mike Green (without all the baggage of blame, at least right now).

Standings update

This marks Ottawa’s fourth win in a row, placing them comfortably in seventh place in the East with 72 points. In fact, they’re currently tied with the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins with those 72 points and are only two points behind the New Jersey Devils for the fourth seed.

Of course, they’ve played five more games than Boston (62 GP to 57) and three more than New Jersey – so they appear larger in those squads’ rear-view mirrors than they actually are – but Ottawa is making some serious noise either way.

Washington, meanwhile, is uttering a mere whimper. They’ve lost three games in a row and now find themselves two points behind the Winnipeg Jets (65 to 63) for ninth place, although they do have two games in hand. They also trail the eighth-place Toronto Maple Leafs by two points but don’t have those games in hand, so this was yet another missed opportunity for Washington.

Here are highlights of the contest:

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Breaking down the race for the East’s final playoff spots

Washington Capitals v Florida Panthers

Earlier this week, the NBC Sports Network gang took a look at the Eastern Conference playoff bubble, as you can see in the video below:

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Want a more detailed playoff picture? NBC’s standings page provides some extra meat, from games played to full records.

source:  (click to enlarge)

The Southleast

First things first, the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers look to be in a two-horse race to win the once-again-woeful Southeast Division. Both teams reached 55 points in 48 games, but Washington has four more wins (26 to 22). On the other hand, the Panthers have 18 home games and 16 road games left while the Caps will play 18 more road games and 16 home games, so this one could be awfully close.

As undeserving as they might seem, one of these squads will win one of the top three seeds. Let’s face it, it’s most likely to be No. 3. Whoever loses will be in a dogfight – likely for the seventh and eighth seed.

The battles for seventh and eighth

The second place team in the Southeast, New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs will likely have the inside track for the top two spots at 55 points right now. The Devils have 18 home games and 16 road contests left while the Maple Leafs have 15 home games and 18 away matches remaining.

The Winnipeg Jets are probably the closest team to a “wild card” with 50 points. The Jets have 16 home games and 16 road games left, so they’re definitely facing an uphill battle to get back into the real mix.

Long shots

The Montreal Canadiens (47 points), Tampa Bay Lightning (46), New York Islanders (45), Buffalo Sabres (45) and Carolina Hurricanes (45) are all on their last legs.

Carolina might be the easiest to count out overall since they only have 31 games left this season and only 14 of those games are at home. Conversely, the one team that might have a sneaky chance to turn things around is Tampa Bay. Beyond the obvious talent on their roster, the Bolts play 20 of their final 34 games at home, so that might give them a chance to put together a run or two.


After reading this rundown, which bubble teams strike you as the most likely to take the Eastern Conference’s final spots? Do you expect the Panthers to surprisingly take the Southeast or will the Capitals find a way to make it happen once again? Let us know in the comments.

Eastern Conference update: Capitals take No.1, plot thickens for bubble teams


Eastern Conference

x-1. Washington – 103 pts (3 GR)
x-2. Philadelphia – 102 pts (4 GR)
y-3. Boston – 99 pts (4 GR)
x-4. Pittsburgh – 100 pts (3 GR)
x-5. Tampa Bay – 97 pts (4 GR)
6. Montreal – 91 pts (3 GR)
7. Buffalo – 88 pts (4 GR)
8. NY Rangers – 87 pts (4 GR)
9. Carolina – 86 pts (4 GR)
10. Toronto – 84 pts (3 GR)
e-11. Atlanta – 78 pts (4 GR)
e-12. New Jersey – 77 pts (4 GR)

x – clinched playoff spot
y – clinched division title
e- eliminated from playoffs
GR – games remaining

Washington 5, Buffalo 4 (OT)

Click here for the full recap.

The Capitals now have a one-point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference, although Philly holds a game in hand (which you can witness tomorrow afternoon, in the NBC Game of the Week against the New York Rangers). Meanwhile, the Sabres at least earned a point to keep themselves one point ahead of the eighth-place Rangers and two points ahead of the ninth place Hurricanes.

This sets up an incredibly juicy Sabres-Hurricanes contest in Carolina on Sunday evening.

Carolina 4, NY Islanders 2

Speaking of the Canes, they played against the Islanders tonight in a game they had to win (regardless of the fact that the Isles have been notably scrappy lately). Carolina did just that, as Erik Cole won it for his team once again while Joe Corvo had a goal and two assists. Again, the Hurricanes are now only two points behind the Sabres and one point behind the Rangers for one of the final playoff spots.

Boston 3, Atlanta 2; Montreal 3, New Jersey 1

Three things were clinched in these two games. First, the Bruins guaranteed themselves a top-three seed by clinching the Northeast Division with today’s win. This defeat eliminated Atlanta from the playoffs (read the full recap here).

Meanwhile, Zach Parise returned to the Devils’ fold just in time to watch his team get eliminated from the postseason for the first time since the 1995-96 season. Mathieu Darche scored two goals and Carey Price made 20 saves to win this one for the Habs.

Toronto 4, Ottawa 2

The Maple Leafs’ playoff dreams are still alive, even if their chances are pretty slim. Phil Kessel hit the 30-goal mark for the third straight season by scoring the game’s opening goal, Jason Spezza scored twice in a losing effort and James Reimer made 23 saves in this Toronto win. The Leafs are a little short on points and games remaining, but they can still dream of an unlikely playoff run thanks to this victory.

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 2; Tampa Bay 3, Minnesota 1

The Penguins reached the 100-point mark tonight, but the Lightning kept pace for home ice advantage in their near-definite first round matchup. Pittsburgh has three more points than Tampa Bay, but the Bolts have an extra game in hand so they can close that gap to just one point if they earn two points in that extra contest.

Jordan Staal earned three assists in the game to help the Pens come back from a 2-1 deficit while Dwayne Roloson stopped 29 out of 30 shots to officially eliminate the Wild from the West playoffs, which must have been slightly sweet since Roloson was once in Minnesota’s goalie rotation.


It was an interesting and game-changing Saturday in the East, with teams jockeying for position in fascinating ways. Keep your eye on PHT tonight, as we’ll handicap the race for the top spot in the East as well as the slugfest for the final two seeds.