A poor performance by the Boston Bruins has opened the door for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who can move into a playoff spot with a win tonight over the visitors from Winnipeg.
The Bruins saw their modest two-game winning streak come to an end last night in New Jersey, where they lost, 3-0, to the Devils.
“We just couldn’t muster up anything tonight,” Boston coach Claude Julien told reporters. “We were flat. We were flat from start to finish.”
And so the Lightning will head into tonight’s game two points back of the B’s for third place in the Atlantic Division. And with two games in hand, they’d hold the tiebreaker if they can beat the Jets.
Meanwhile, the second-place Ottawa Senators are on their “bye week.” By the time they return to action Saturday, they could be out of a playoff spot themselves.
Speaking of teams from Ontario, the Toronto Maple Leafs have won five straight and currently sit just three points back of the Bruins, with four precious games in hand. They take on the Caps tonight in D.C.
And let’s not forget about the Florida Panthers. As disappointing as they’ve been, the Panthers still have the potential to go on a run, and they’re only four points back of Boston, with two games in hand. They host Winnipeg tomorrow, Nashville Friday, then have a big game with the Bruins Saturday at BB&T Center.
Detroit and Buffalo round out the division. Though neither team looks like it will be a factor down the stretch, you never know for sure. With a lengthy playoff streak on the line, the Red Wings will give it their all.
It’s all shaping up to be a fascinating second half of the season. And not just in the Atlantic.
Because while some have conceded that the Metropolitan will have five playoff teams (leaving just three for the Atlantic), the Philadelphia Flyers, with just one win in their last seven, can’t be feeling too comfortable these days. The Flyers are just three points up on the Lightning for the second wild-card spot, and the Bolts hold a game in hand.