Tag: inside the standings

Scott Gomez, Zdeno Chara

Northeast Division Watch (March 17)

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northeast Division outlook (March 17 -March 24th)

1. Boston Bruins (39-21-10 for 88 pts; 70 Games Played)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Away vs. Toronto (Saturday), home vs. New Jersey (Tuesday) and home vs. Montreal (Thursday).

Thoughts: Eight of the Bruins’ last 12 games are on the road, so their chances of winning the Northeast Division are pretty good. They’re going to face some desperate teams this week, including a big – maybe bloody? – game against the Canadiens.

2. Montreal Canadiens (39-25-7 for 85 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away vs. Rangers (Fri), @ Minnesota (Sun), home vs. Buffalo (Tues) and @ Boston (Thurs).

Thoughts: While Boston only has four road games left, the Canadiens only have four home games remaining. If Montreal manages to come back and win the Northeast, it would be one impressive feat.

3. Buffalo Sabres (34-28-8 for 76 pts; 70 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Atlanta (Sat), home vs. Nashville (Sun) and @ Montreal (Tues).

Thoughts: If the Sabres manage to make it to the playoffs – and there’s a good chance they will – they could be a dangerous team to face. That’s because they are remarkably better on the road (19-12-5) than they are at home (15-16-3).

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (31-31-10 for 72 pts; 72 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Boston (Sat), @ Minnesota (Tues) and @ Colorado (Thurs).

Thoughts: The Maple Leafs aren’t dead by any means, but for them to make the playoffs, they’ll need to play outstanding hockey (and get really lucky). If they don’t manage to get four out of a possible six points this coming week, it will be tough to imagine them making it.

And even then, it’s no guarantee.

5. Ottawa Senators (26-36-9 for 61 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Home vs. Tampa Bay (Sat), @ Carolina (Tues) and @ Rangers (Thurs).

Thoughts: The Senators might as well embrace their role as spoilers, because the next six games on their schedule provide ample party pooping opportunities. Consider it a win-win situation, as they’ll either be a thorn in the side of playoff teams if they win or they’ll improve their chances of getting a top draft pick if they lose.

Tonight in the Eastern Conference bubble: Thrashers win, Devils and Leafs fall

Brian Little, Brian Boucher

With a busy St. Patrick Day’s slate of 11 games tonight, it might be easier to follow the action if we break the results down into digestible chunks (especially if you’re also ingesting plenty of green beer). With that in mind, let’s take a look at the three games that affected the Eastern Conference playoff bubble tonight.

Atlanta 4, Philadelphia 3 (OT)

Luckily for the still-alive-but-barely Thrashers, “style points” are not yet a playoffs tie-breaker. Atlanta coughed up three one-goal leads against the East’s best team, but ultimately managed to squeeze out two crucial points.

The best part for the Thrashers is that they gave up that one “charity point” to a team so far ahead of them it won’t matter.

Ron Hainsey collected two assists for Atlanta while Daniel Briere scored two goals and one assist for the Chris Pronger-less Flyers. If the Thrashers make the playoffs, it won’t be on the strength of their regulation play (their goal differential is -30). It will be on the strength of the charity point, as they have 12 points from overtime or shootout losses and four shootout wins.

Florida 4, Toronto 0

While the Thrashers were opportunistic with their shootout win, the two other major bubble teams couldn’t earn a single point against struggling teams.

The Maple Leafs showed how much they need James Reimer’s above average netminding, as they just couldn’t get it done against the Panthers with Jean-Sebastien Giguere getting the start.

Sergei Samsonov and Stephen Weiss scored a goal and an assist each while Scott Clemmensen earned a 24-save shutout to win the game for Florida. Whether this win fuels delusions of a playoff run or counts as a satisfying moment as a “spoiler” is up to the Panthers.

Ottawa 3, New Jersey 1

On paper, this looked like an easy win for the ludicrously hot Devils.

After all, the Senators are one of the East’s cellar dwellers and they weren’t even able to start their possible goalie of the future Craig Anderson tonight. Instead, it was Curtis McElhinney between the pipes.

McElhinney ended up being up to the task, as he stopped 33 out of 34 New Jersey shots, only allowing a Brian Rolston slapper to beat him during this game. Chris Neil scored twice (one being an empty netter) in the third period while Ryan Shannon provided Ottawa’s other goal.


So with those three games, the Eastern Conference bubble looks like this (via NBC’s NHL standings page).

(click to enlarge)

So, as you can see, the Devils really missed an opportunity tonight. They still might have a better chance than the Thrashers and Maple Leafs because of total wins and games remaining, though. Overall, the current playoff teams (New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres) are clearly the favorites to earn the last two spots in the East while the Devils and Buffalo Sabres probably have the best chance to usurp them.

Atlantic Division Watch (March 16)

Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky
1 Comment

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Atlantic Division outlook (March 16 -March 23rd)

1. Philadelphia Flyers (43-19-7 for 93 pts; 69 Games Played)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: @ Atlanta (Thursday), @ Dallas (Saturday), and home vs. Washington (Tuesday)

Thoughts: There was a time, not so long ago, when the Flyers looked like they were slipping a little bit and showing some chinks in their armor. Since getting destroyed 7-0 by the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the Flyers have had 7 points in their last 4 games. If it weren’t for a colossal collapse against the Thrashers, they wouldn’t have lost since. Looking long-term, the team is learning to play without Chris Pronger for the next 3-4 weeks. If they can thrive during this period, they’ll be that much better during the playoffs.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins (41-22-8 for 90 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: Two straight wins.

Week ahead: Home vs. NY Rangers (Sunday), @ Detroit (Monday).

Thoughts: Even though the Flyers have been getting back on track, the Penguins have been able to keep pace and are still only 3 points from the Eastern Conference lead. In case anyone hasn’t heard, their captain Sidney Crosby has missed 2 months with a concussion but has begun skating recently. Everyone knows it’s good to get a captain back—and Crosby is an above-average player. Just like that Wayne Gretzky guy who scored a few points.

3. New York Rangers (37-30-4 for 78 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: Two straight wins.

Week ahead: Home vs. Montreal (Friday), @ Pittsburgh (Sunday), home vs. Florida (Tuesday).

Thoughts: The Rangers keep showing signs that they want to break out. They traveled to San Jose and won a hard-fought victory in a shootout. They dismantled the Islanders. But on the other hand, they played in Anaheim and were completely destroyed. The secret for the Rangers to make the playoffs is simple: just play the Islanders 10 more times.

4. New Jersey Devils (33-32-4 for 69 pts; 69 GP)

Current streak: Won three in a row.

Week ahead: @ Ottawa (Thursday), home vs. Washington (Friday), @ Columbus (Sunday), @ Boston (Tuesday).

Thoughts: The Devils have climbed from the NHL’s cellar to 10th place in the Eastern Conference. Is there anyone in the East that would scare the conference’s elite more than the Devils? If they sneak into the 8th spot, the reward for a team like the Flyers or Capitals could be the Devils—the team that hasn’t lost since Christmas. Unfortunately, not all the news is good news for the Devils these days. With each win, they are completely ruining their draft positioning.

5. New York Islanders (27-33-11 for 65 pts; 71 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: They’ll be on the road all week visiting Carolina (Friday), Florida (Saturday), and Tampa Bay (Tuesday).

Thoughts: Being in last place in the Atlantic Division is one thing. Being in 14th place out of 15 teams in the East is another. But getting pounded by the rival Rangers? That might have been the low point of the season thus far (you know, if you want to ignore Trevor Gillies involvement with the organization). The good news is simple: they have not lost focus like the Devils—they’re well on their way towards another high draft pick this summer. That would be called “staying the course.”