Forget simply making the playoffs, the Ottawa Senators are now challengers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division after their latest win.
Mike Condon stopped all 23 shots he faced on Thursday night in a 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils to record his fifth shutout of the season and help lead the Senators to their 30th win.
The win does a lot of things for the Senators.
First, it helps give them a little extra cushion over the teams below them in the standings when it comes to securing a playoff spot. But it also brings them to within four points of the Montreal Canadiens for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. While a four point gap is normally more difficult to overcome at this point in the season than it would appear, this is not exactly a normal circumstance.
The Senators still have three games in hand on the Canadiens after Thursday night (they also have three games in hand on the Boston Bruins, the team immediately behind them in the standings), and also still have three head-to-head matchups remaining with the Canadiens. All three of those games come during an eight-day stretch between March 18 and March 25.
Assuming things stay as they are in the standings, they are going to be absolutely massive games.
No matter what happens the rest of the way it is still pretty surprising to even see the Senators in this position.
This is a team that missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons and did not really make any significant changes this offseason (they traded Mika Zibanejad for Derrick Brassard; hired Guy Boucher). They also have spent a large portion of this season without starting goalie Craig Anderson as he has been away with the team, turning the goal crease over to Condon, a goalie that was not even with the team at the start of the season.