Analyzing the race for the East's bottom 3 seeds

thrashflyers.jpgThe Eastern Conference’s lower seed situation is murky to say the least. The bottom three seeds could go to any combination of Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta or the Rangers. Some teams have better chances than others, but the 6th-seed Canadiens are only 6 points ahead of 10th place New York. With this muddy picture in mind, I thought, why not take a brief glimpse at the five contenders’ situations?

Each team is listed in order of their current (as of 7:30 pm ET) spot in the standings, in order of highest point total to the lowest.

Montreal

Notes: Tied with Philadelphia for most wins among the five (37), a useful tie-breaker. Only has six games left this season. Current point total: 82

Thoughts on their schedule: Six games left (3 at home, 3 on the road). One game against five contenders. One back to back (at Philadelphia then at home against Buffalo). Overall, their schedule is manageable. 

Streak: Lukewarm. They are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games but lost four of their last five.

Boston

Notes: Eight games remaining, current point total: 80

Thoughts on their schedule: Four games at home and four games on the road for Boston. Two games against Buffalo and Two at Washington. Might be lucky with timing against Washington, though, since the Caps will probably already have the top seed wrapped up by the time the two teams play.

Streak: Lukewarm. They are 5-4-1 in their last 10 but have won three of their last four (including two shutouts).

Philadelphia

Notes: Their 37 wins could help them in the event of tie-breaker situations. The team might be in trouble in net, but that might be more of a playoff worry than anything else. Current point total: 80

Thoughts on their schedule:Three road games remaining. Plays against Montreal once and then finishes the season with a potentially huge home-and-home with the Rangers.

Streak: Ice cold. They are 2-6-2 in their last 10 and are on a five game losing streak.

Jump for the two bubble threats: the Thrashers and the Rangers.


rangersbruins.jpgAtlanta

Notes: Have managed to stick around the playoff race despite a six game losing streak in the beginning to middle of March. No major advantages from a wins or games played standpoint. Current point total: 78

Thoughts on their schedule: Their closing schedule is downright brutal. First they play against bad-but-hot Toronto and Carolina, then they play their last five games against the East’s elite. That’s two games in Washington, two games against the Penguins and one against the Devils. My guess is that will be the end of the scrappy bunch.

Streak: Fairly hot. Although their 5-3-2 streak isn’t mesmerizing, they’ve won five of seven and squeezed 11 out of 14 possible points in that stretch.

New York Rangers

Notes: Need every point they can get. Current point total: 76

Thoughts on their schedule: They have four games left on a rough six-game road trip. If they can scrape together enough points, their home-and-home with Philadelphia could be a huge deal.

Streak: Cold. They are 4-4-2 in their last 10 and have lost four of six. On the bright side, they’ve managed 3 out of a possible 4 points during the first two games of their aforementioned six game road trip.

Scroll Down For:

    Bruins sign Zdeno Chara to one-year extension

    Getty
    1 Comment

    Zdeno Chara will be back for a 22nd season in the NHL in 2019-20.

    The Boston Bruins announced on Saturday morning that they have signed the 42-year-old defender to a one-year contract extension that will pay him $2 million in base salary, and another $1.75 million in performance-based bonuses.

    Chara has appeared in 55 games this season, recording four goals and seven assists for a Bruins team that has been one of the NHL’s best.

    When he returns next season he is going to join a small list of defenders to skate in the NHL beyond their age 42 season. It is a list that includes only Chris Chelios (who played until he was 48), Doug Harvey, Tim Horton, Lester Patrick, and Allan Stanley.

    He has spent the past 13 seasons of his career with the Bruins where he has been a consistent rock on their blue line. Obviously at this point in his career he is not the same dominant player that he once was, but he has still been a solid performer that has played more than 20 minutes per night on the team’s top-pairing next to Charlie McAvoy. When that duo has been together this season the Bruins have controlled more than 54 percent of the total shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances, via Natural Stat Trick. They have been together for most of the past two seasons when both are healthy and have been an outstanding pairing for the Bruins.

    Chara won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defender during the 2008-09 season with the Bruins and has been a finalist five other times, including during the Bruins’ Stanley Cup winning season in 2010-11. He finished fifth in 2012-13 when the Bruins returned to the Stanley Cup Final.

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

    The Buzzer: Silfverberg plays OT hero; Donato helps Wild

    AP Images
    2 Comments

    Three Stars

    1. Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks

    Silfverberg was involved in three of Anaheim’s four goals during their 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks. After helping set up the Ducks’ first two goals, Silfverberg put the game to bed 38 seconds into overtime to clinch the victory for Anaheim.

    2. Ryan Donato, Minnesota Wild

    One-third of Minnesota’s “Kid Line” set up both Wild goals during a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals. The two points earned helped move Minnesota back into Western Conference wild card spot with seven games to go. Donato now has 13 points in 14 games since being dealt to the Wild.

    3. Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks

    Rakell tallied twice and assisted on the OT winner, helping the Ducks to go two-for-three on the power play. The goals were Rakell’s first in seven games. He now has 13 on the season.

    Highlights of the Night

    • Silfverberg has five multi-point games this season and four in his last 18 games:

    Jordan Greenway powered his way to the net for his 12th of the season and finished off with some nice stick handling:

    Factoids of the Night

    • Donato’s assist on Greenway’s goal was the 10,000th point in Wild franchise history.

    Scores
    Wild 2, Capitals 1
    Ducks 4, Sharks 3 (OT)

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Lightning’s Gourde suspended two games for illegal check to the head

    NHL
    4 Comments

    Yanni Gourde has been suspended two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety for his hit to the head of Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning forward went to lay a hit on Staal and ended up getting his head, leading to a match penalty and an ejection. Staal, who missed 32 games this season while dealing with a concussion, left the game before returning and scoring Carolina’s second goal in a 6-3 loss.

    “I haven’t really watched or seen it but, you know, it’s a fast game, things happen,” Staal said afterward. “Obviously, you never want to see those hits. I was fortunate enough to come out of it feeling all right.”

    DoPS head George Parros said the head check was avoidable in the department’s suspension video.

    “While we acknowledge Gourde’s argument that Staal is bent low and stumbling as he plays the puck, this hit does not meet any of the criteria for unavoidable head contact,” Parros said.

    Gourde, who has no history with the DoPS in his 179-game career, will miss the Lightning’s games against St. Louis on Saturday and Boston on Monday. He is eligible to return next Saturday vs. Washington.

    Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Gourde forfeits $10,752.68 — money that goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Ducks give discouraging update on Eaves, Kesler

    Getty
    1 Comment

    Back in 2016-17 Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Kesler was wrapping up the first year of a six-year, $41.2 million contract extension and still looking like one of the league’s best shutdown centers.

    He finished with 22 goals and 58 points for a Ducks team that reached the Western Conference Final, and was also the runner-up for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward.

    The two years that have followed, including the 2018-19 season, have not been kind to him.

    After appearing in only 44 games a season ago due to injury, the 34-year-old Kesler has been limited to just 60 games this season and has missed each of the past seven due to a hip injury. In the two years he has combined for just 13 goals and 22 points, and it sounds like the Ducks do not expect to see him on the ice again this season, while there should be some serious doubt as to what his future might hold.

    “We’re going to meet with the doctors tonight, [Kesler] and I,” general manager and interim head coach Bob Murray said on Friday, via the Ducks’ website. “[Kesler] has to get everything in his life in order as to what he has to do in order to play. It’s not exactly good for his body, the things he puts himself through. We need to take full inventory of where he is in his life and go forward from there. The agent and I have talked a bunch.”

    Kesler still has three years remaining on his contract after this one at a salary cap hit of $6.875 million per season. Between him, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry the Ducks have more than $23 million per season tied up in three players all age 33 or older over the next two full seasons (plus a third season for Kesler).

    With the Ducks badly struggling on the ice this season with one of the league’s worst records it does not leave them in an ideal situation. 

    Kesler’s status is not the only troubling one that Murray addressed on Friday.

    He also mentioned that forward Patrick Eaves is dealing with a lot of the same issues that he dealt with a year ago when a post-viral syndrome limited him to just two games.

    He has only appeared in seven NHL games this season.

    “He’s had a setback,” said Murray. “Texted with him yesterday. There is no new diagnosis or anything. This is a very troubling situation, and everybody is doing the best they can with it. There is no diagnosis, and he’s just struggling again with everything. Like [Kesler], we hope he gets better so he can have a normal life. I don’t want to speak for him, but he’s just struggling. It’s more like what he had last year. He’s experiencing some of the same issues as last year. Let’s just leave it at that.”

    Eaves joined the Ducks in the middle of the 2016-17 NHL season and has scored 132 goals in 633 career games with the Ducks, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, and Ottawa Senators.

    Related: After year away, Eaves had a blast in return to NHL

    Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.